American Splendor, indeed.

by Michael Ryerson

July 12, 2010 

He was resigned, fatalistic even, his whole life long. He was obsessive-compulsive and clinically depressed so it came as no surprise. He knew it would end this way. Went up to bed in good spirits (for him, I guess) in the late afternoon. Was found wedged between a dresser and the bedframe at one am the next morning, by his wife. Suffered from a half dozen ailments the last few years, any one of which could have killed him, no official cause yet though. Harvey Pekar, dead at 70, who said, ‘My name is Harvey Pekar – that’s an unusual name – Harvey Pekar. 1960 was the year I got my first apartment and my first phone book. Now imagine my surprise when I looked up my name and saw that in addition to me, another Harvey Pekar was listed. Now I was listed as “Harvey L. Pekar”, my middle name is Lawrence, and he was listed as “Harvey Pekar” therefore his was a – was a pure listing. Then in the ’70s, I noticed that a third Harvey Pekar was listed in the phone book, now this filled me with curiousity. How can there be three people with such an unusual name in the world, let alone in one city? Then one day, a person I work with, expressed her sympathy with me, concerning what she thought, was the death of my father, and she pointed out an obituary notice in the newspaper for a man named Harvey Pekar. And one of his sons was named Harvey. And these were the other Harvey Pekar’s. And six months later, Harvey Pekar Jr. died. And although I’ve met neither man, I was filled with sadness, ‘what were they like?’, I thought, it seemed that our lives had been linked in some indefineable way. But the story does not end there, for two years later, another ‘Harvey Pekar’ appeared in the phone book. Who are these people? Where do they come from? What do they do? What’s in a name? Who is “Harvey Pekar”?’

He also said, “Life is a war of attrition. You have to stay active on all fronts. It’s one thing after another. I’ve tried to control a chaotic universe. And it’s a losing battle. But I can’t let go. I’ve tried, but I can’t.”

Harvey L. Pekar died in Ohio yesterday of God only knows what.

Michael Ryerson