Harvey Pekar and Huntington, on the fly

April 26, 2011 by Greg Moore

Harvey Pekar said that his writing chronicles “a series of day-after-day activities that have more influence on a person than any spectacular or traumatic events. It’s the 99 percent of life that nobody ever writes about.”

Pekar, who died last year at 70, was among the first to show that the comic book medium could be used to tell stories of everyday people, not just muscular heroes in Technicolor costumes. He was a Veterans Administration file clerk and an avid collector of jazz records; the latter brought Pekar into contact with the legendary underground artist R. Crumb, and led him to create his own series, “American Splendor.”

His first hardcover collection of “American Splendor” won an American Book Award in 1987, and the critically acclaimed film of the same name starred Paul Giamatti as Pekar in 2003.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of Pekar’s last works, “Huntington, West Virginia, ‘On The Fly,'” is being released today. From the publisher, Villard:

Huntington, West Virginia “On the Fly” is prime Pekar, recounting the irascible everyman’s on-the-road encounters with a cross section of characters—a career criminal turned limo-driving entrepreneur, a toy merchant obsessed with restoring a vintage diner, comic-book archivists, indie filmmakers, and children of the sixties—all of whom have stories to tell. By turns funny, poignant, and insightful, these portraits à la Pekar showcase a one-of-a-kind master at work, channeling the stuff of average life into genuine American art.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of the book yet. From a couple of things I’ve seen around the web, the book (illustrated by New York artist Summer McClinton) includes some of Pekar’s observations as he promoted the “American Splendor” movie, as well as some of his other works.

This brief review notes tantalizingly that among the scenarios are “a book festival in West Virginia.”


Seriously, I don’t even know if that’s us; I don’t think Pekar was ever at the West Virginia Book Festival. So for the love of Mike, if someone gets this book and reads it, let us know what’s in it.

4 Responses to “Harvey Pekar and Huntington, on the fly”

  1. James says:

    According to this article written shortly after Pekar’s death he was indeed at a book festival in Huntington.

  2. Greg Moore says:

    Thanks, James. Sounds like him in that article:

    “I don’t want to get you in trouble, Illya, but I’d rather stay and watch the whole damn thing than have to walk around shaking hands with people.”

  3. Rea Jo waldo says:

    This book is so bad. It does not reflect Huntington, west Virginia. It is the biggest nothing book I have ever read. I bought the book thinking it was about my home town. Not even close.

    Rea jo Waldo

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