Our Cancer Year – Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar had been writing an autobiographical comic book called American Splendor since 1976. His wife Joyce is also a writer and this is the story of their battle with cancer.

There is something about a true story. Some compelling force that draws you in deep in ways fiction finds hard to do. This work has many strengths, all of which combine to blend into an almost perfect narrative.

This tale is more of an overheard conversation or a retelling of a memory. It isn’t a highly polished chronology but a meandering of two people’s collective experience. Just as life rarely arrives one challenge at a time this book presents a broad picture of all the events that were occurring around them from moving house to the gulf war. This collage approach serves to flesh out what could easily become a list of medical procedures.

The account is a combined effort with both husband and wife taking up the thread just like a real conversation. It is mostly a depiction, or recollection, of snatches of real-time events linked by frequent narration. It is very dialogue heavy and could work as a traditional paperback even with the disjointed telling. It is more of an illustrated story than fully fledged comic book but there are some solely visual touches.

The art is basic black and white and has a very home-grown feel to it. It does look like it has been done with a couple of black pens and photocopied. There are even traces of the straight lines for the lettering. This is definitely an asset as the level of authenticity and truth that this basic style imparts is beyond measure.

This is a personal and intimate story of two people that love each other and the trials and tribulations they face together. It is quite frank and there are probably things in here that you would choose to leave out if it were your story. It is harrowing and affecting but without becoming bleak or trite. You are never without hope and never forget this is about real people and that you are privileged to share something so intimate. Thumbs Up!


Tomorrow: Exit Wounds – Rutu Modan

2 thoughts on “Our Cancer Year – Harvey Pekar

  1. I’m very sad. American Splendor the movie made me really like Harvey Pekar’s blue colalr, do-it-yourself attitude. His passion, even if often very pessimistic, was inspiring. I really enjoyed The Quitter with Dean Haspiel most recently.

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