Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Austin Kleon says
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 10:34 am
the result of lunch:
Pekar, wife give update on their lives after movie
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Plain Dealer Reporter
Four years after the Oscar-nominated, Sundance-honored “American Splendor,” Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis were in new roles last week, somewhere else, doing whatever movie actors do.
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner, still playing themselves, were walking hand in hand along Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, handing out fliers for tonight’s “American Splendor: After the Ball Is Over.”
It’s not precisely a movie sequel or even really a show in the traditional sense. Continuing the yearlong “Celebration of Coventry” opened in March by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland, it’s billed as a storytelling evening with the couple who aims to answer the question, “Who ARE these people, anyway?”
“It’s mostly to answer questions about what happened to us next, after the movie, on the slippery slope from red carpet to Coventry tree lawn,” Brabner said. “Like, If you’re so famous, how come you’re not rich?’ And it’s for all those people who lie to their relatives out of town and say, I know that guy.’ ”
“That guy” is Pekar, the former Veterans Administration clerk who started chronicling the mundane realities of everyday life 30 years ago in “American Splendor,” the autobiographical comic book series that won an American Book Award and became a movie.
Brabner, essential to the story, is a writer and activist who is Pekar’s wife and frequent collaborator. They married on their third date, 24 years ago this month, after a courtship conducted by postcards and telephone.
That brings up one of the things they’ll talk about tonight — “The History of a Marriage,” a story she wrote and he polished for “Postcards,” an anthology being published next month. When galleys and promotional material for the book arrived, Brabner discovered the story was credited to Pekar and illustrator Matt Kindt.
“It’s like, when did Harvey and Matt get married?” she said. “The publisher and I had this funny exchange of letters I’ll be reading, in which I finally said, Look, it’s the new millennium, you have to leave the seat down, you have to give the women credit. If you’re having trouble with this, talk to your wife or girlfriend.’
“It’s part of being the handmaiden to the Great Man,” she said with a sigh. “I’m going to tell what it’s like.”
He winced, she smiled, and they both seem pleased. He is known for saying that “ordinary life is pretty complex stuff,” and they prove it. Over a late breakfast at Tommy’s on Coventry, talk ricocheted between them about work completed and contemplated and in progress, against the backdrop of theatrically long-suffering mutual devotion.
“Up until the movie came out,” she said, “my husband was the rude guy with the runny nose having a meltdown in the grocery store. Now, people are offended if he doesn’t melt down. The whole thing exists purely as a social excuse for me. I’m off the hook! Years of anti-social behavior have been elevated to an art form.”
“I am a martyr,” he said.
Much of what they’ll discuss tonight involves matters they’ve more commonly shared in talks elsewhere around the country, including Pekar’s struggle with depression and the lymphoma they chronicled in “Our Cancer Year.” They’ll also talk about people like Motormouth Freddy, an old pal who figured a Hollywood lawsuit was his ticket to fortune after the success of “American Splendor.”
“We have a list of stories we’re going to tell, and some other stuff,” Brabner said. “We’ll go back and forth. If people start falling asleep during one, we’ll change to something else. I’d like Harvey to tell some of the older stories that didn’t make it into the movie — like the one about Carmella, who roller-skated to work during a transit strike and wore her clothes inside out when the outside was dirty. Didn’t she fall out of a tree once?”
Pekar wasn’t sure about that, but he’s eager to talk about current work.
“I was promoting the movie in Missouri,” he said, “and the owner of the theater there had a sister going to Berkeley in peace studies, which I guess is a portion of political science. She told me how guys would hassle her about peace studies and say war is inevitable, you’re wasting your time, stuff like that.
“She said, War isn’t inevitable, and I can cite an example.’ She cited Macedonia — not in Ohio, but in the Balkans — where constitutional changes and guarantees of rights for the repressed Albanian minority avoided civil war.
“She was writing a thesis about it. I wrote a story from 150 pages of notes the woman gave me about her stay there,” Pekar said. “War is not an unusual subject in comics, but this kind of thing, the lack of war, is pretty unusual. That book is coming in late June.”
He’s working on a comic book version of Studs Turkel’s “Working” and probably will do a book about Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare of the 1950s. He just finished the text of a Lenny Bruce biography and a history of the Beats. “Another Day,” a book of short stories more typical of “American Splendor,” was published last month.
Going back to a subject of “After the Ball Is Over,” why aren’t they rich?
“We’re still working, and that is what it’s about,” Brabner said. “Harvey is able to write every day. That is success. The movie was good to us. We achieved middle income, if not middle-class status, by working on the movie. We’re no longer the working poor. For me, that’s amazing. I have a freezer now.”
Friday, October 9, 2009 at 11:20 am
dude, this is so awesome.
[…] not draw it. I asked Cantu who inspired him as a writer writing for comics. Funny enough, he said Harvey Pekar, and told a funny story about meeting Harvey while at a convention in Ohio. We had to go back to […]
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