Report concerning Harvey Pekar's passing "Harvey’s life’s work was in showing that the ordinary was important, and a working class existence was not a prison but a journey through the profound and beautiful that anyone could experience if they took the time. He found that beauty in simple, quotidian things and experiences that others might have found trivial or mundane, but in the end his message was that what else is there? Life as it is lived is the most precious gift of all." - Heidi MacDonald, The Beat
"Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person." - Death of a Salesman, Act I
There's really nothing I can say that isn't better said by Heidi MacDonald in her "Remembering Harvey" post. We all knew this to be true: Harvey Pekar was an everyday normal person and he lived an extraordinary life. He showed that any life (no matter how many billion people are on the planet) can be significant and meaningful through creative pursuits, through being mindful of the events in our life.
Harvey loved to talk philosophy, art, music (jazz!), and politics. He would talk to David Letterman, to a friend, or to a complete stranger. Everyone has value. Everyone has dignity.
Here's proof: In 2005, I found Harvey's number in the phone book. I had read his comics, loved his comics, and I thought I'd give him a call. So I did. He had never met me before. I introduced myself, and I asked if he had time to talk. Harvey said he had plenty of time. We talked for about thirty minutes. The topics varied. It was a good conversation. Towards the end, I asked if he'd like to be on Fanboy Radio. We set up the interview for later that day. If I remember this correctly, during the radio interview itself, Harvey expressed his trouble with email -- and suggested if anyone needed to get in touch with him, just give him a call. Anyone. As one who loves to talk, let me say how much I value someone with a similar love for meaningful conversation.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for his work, for how he expanded the comics medium. The full potential of comics is seen, not in grandiose content or subject matter, but in the honesty of your work. Harvey was a honest writer, and that is the highest compliment you can offer to someone who puts words together.
He was an intellectual who wasn't interested in status or stature. In fact, Harvey's disdain for status and stature could have made him a target for the "outsider art" label. David Letterman (who I doubt is familiar with this classification of artist) seemed bent on making Harvey appear as an outsider artist. To make them seem too quirky to be "legitimate," and yet the snobby art community is so interested in this artist's obscurity that they charitably bestow legitimacy. It's belittling. Here's the secret that Harvey's readers were in on: Harvey was too smart for the establishment. He was in on the joke, and he knew how to handle his image. After all, it was his medium. With every pained smiled, there was a look in his eye that said, "I get it. You know I get it, but let's just play along anyways." Harvey was an incredible writer, an influential writer, an honest writer, and he will be greatly missed.
Recommended reading: OUR CANCER YEAR