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The Childhood of Harvey Pekar, 'The Quitter'

Nov 10, 2005 (Fresh Air)

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The Quitter, the new graphic novel from Harvey Pekar, is an autobiographical account of his upbringing as the son of Jewish immigrants. The book, set in the Cleveland of the 1950s and '60s, offers a view of how Pekar came to be a frustrated — and charming — storyteller.

Pekar began writing comic book stories in 1972, encouraged by his friend Robert Crumb, a comic book author and artist who has illustrated many of Pekar's pieces. The Quitter features art by Dean Haspiel.

The first collection of Pekar's work was American Splendor, a presentation of stories that energize everyday — even boring — events of Pekar's life in Cleveland with caustic humor. A film of the same title, released in 2003, helped Pekar emerge from obscurity when it became a surprise hit and won several awards.

Pekar's other book-length story, Our Cancer Year, was written in collaboration with his wife, Joyce Brabner. The book's events begin in 1990, when the couple learned that Pekar had lymphoma. From there, Pekar and Brabner weave stories of treating cancer with commentaries on the 1991 Persian Gulf War and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

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