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Harvey Pekar, Graphic Art and Israeli State Policy

By dlindorff - Posted on 17 September 2012


By John Grant

A review of:
By Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman
With an epilogue by Joyce Brabner
Hill and Wang, 2012
$14.67 on Amazon

Harvey Pekar, who died in 2010, was a major player in the elevation of comics into a respectable medium for telling human stories. His famous American Splendor comic featured Pekar as an existential everyman/curmudgeon finding stories in chance meetings in the grocery line, in his mundane, day-to-day life as a file clerk in a Cleveland VA office or in his celebrated appearances on the David Letterman show. His image has been drawn by dozens of cartoonists in a range of styles, most notably by the famous R. Crumb. A feature film was made about Pekar's life and work called American Splendor. The hybrid narrative/documentary film won an Oscar for its screenplay.

Pekar has a strong following and is still publishing graphic narratives beyond the grave. The new comic titled Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me is an example of his post-mortem work. (A second graphic tale written by Pekar -- Harvey Pekar's Cleveland -- has also been published this year. It was illustrated by Joseph Remnant.)

The 172-page graphic narrative on Israel that was conceived and written by Pekar has been illustrated by Philadelphia artist J.T. Waldman, whose other work includes a highly regarded graphic narrative of the Biblical Esther story called Megillat Esther. Bruce Farrar on Amazon’s website says of this book: “A daring and imaginative interpretation of scripture in a graphic novel is JT Waldman's version of the Scroll of Esther, the story behind the Purim festival. …This is a cup that runs over its brim with delights, wonders, and mysteries.”

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me is comprised of three interwoven narrative lines. First, there’s Pekar’s story raised in Cleveland by a father who owned and operated a small grocery store and a mother who was a devoted Marxist; both parents were strong Zionists. Second, there’s Pekar’s telling of Jewish history from Abraham to the Crusades to the British Mandate to the founding of Israel. The third narrative thread is based on the time Waldman met Pekar and drove him around Cleveland before Pekar died.

Much of the narrative is framed by the conversation between the two men (one old, one young) during the drive through Cleveland,. Fittingly, the drive begins at a huge used book store and ends at a public library. This is a apt frame because Pekar was a notorious bibliophile who haunted used book stores and libraries during his lifetime and amassed a vast library of his own in his home, which he shared with his wife and professional collaborator, Joyce Brabner...

For the rest of this article by JOHN GRANT in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to:


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