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Looking for Harvey Pekar

Looking for Harvey Pekar

The death this week of Harvey Pekar–the renowned, cantankerous cartoonist, and a Jew from Cleveland–cast a somber mood over the cultural landscape. But for Jews in particular, the loss was significant. One of his less publicized projects that he’s currentlly under contract for, before his death on Monday, at age 70, was a history of Israel.

According to his illustrator on the project, JT Waldman, who had been working on the project with Parker for Hill and Wang over the last three years, the book was to be finished in the coming year. He plans on finishing it, too, he said.

Waldman said in an email earlier today: "I have been working with Harvey since 2007 on a project about the history of Israel. We have been working with an editor at Hill & Wang for almost 3 years on this project. I spent time with Harvey in Cleveland this past winter and spoke with on a weekly basis."

Waldman added: "I’m in shock and deeply saddened to have lost my mentor/friend as well as my creative collaborator."

Pekar is most best known for his "American Splendor" comic book series, which became subject of the eponymous film in 2003, starring Paul Giamatti. But he’s been a Clevelander his entire life, and seems to know everyone who lives, or has ever lived there. Cleveland’s where he struck up his life-long friendship with R. Crumb, who illustrated some of his work, and who continues to play a part in much of his work.

And it’s also where he began contributing to the new Jewish literary magazine upstart, The Jewish Review of Books. On the publication’s Web site, Pekar reviews R. Crumb’s recently illustrated Book of Genesis and does a one page riff on Shabbos in his own rusty city.

Commenting on Pekar’s contribution, the editors write: "Harvey was just in the office last week to pick up the new issue, and seemed in good contrarian form, wryly outraged by half a dozen news items. His last comic for us, ‘Gut Shabbes,’ was a characteristically self-deprecating little story of the tension between secular and religious Jews."

Harvey, you will be missed.

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