We’re not much for posthumous praise, but now that he’s gone, it seems worth taking a moment to remember why everyone cared about Harvey Pekar in the first place.
When new art forms pop up, all sorts of strange voices can suddenly bubble up to the surface. In Pekar’s case, it was a kind of curmudgeonly skepticism, which happened to dovetail perfectly with the loving grotesque school of comics pioneered by R. Crumb. The result was funny, aggressive autobiography from someone who seemed to genuinely have no illusions about the world. (You can see good examples here, here and here.)
A lot of buzz today has focused on his ongoing Letterman feud—a tragedy in two acts— but it’s a pretty good example of what modern culture has lost. Unlike everyone else on the talk show game, he thought behind-the-curtain corporate shenanigans were more important than ever appearing on television again. It’s a high standard for honesty, and it’s unlikely anyone will live up to it again.