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July 2010 marks the death of a controversial writer. Some say he was an amazing writer, while others did not understand his style, which did not have the flowery language and fluff that many authors use to draw in readers. Always honest in his portrayals, especially of his hometown of Cleveland, Harvey’s down-to-earth style will be missed among the number of writers that serve to define American writing.
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is the story of a struggling city as well as a hardworking Jewish man who grew up in Cleveland and refuses to leave it behind, despite the hardships it throws at him. The illustrations of Joseph Remnant show readers the gritty hardship of the city and its people. The texture of the pictures does not allow much room for readers to see any light coming into the story, and since it is told through the eyes of Harvey, who never once is drawn looking out to his audience, it is a bit distancing.
Cleveland starts out similar to a lecture given by an old history teacher that holds a particular subject very near to his heart. It is easy to tell that there were times when Harvey was frustrated with the city he called home, but readers will not be able to come to any other conclusion than that he loved this city.
Harvey goes on and on in his reminiscing, giving his excited retelling of being in class and hearing that Cleveland’s baseball team won the World Series in 1948. He also spends a great amount of time giving a brief history of Cleveland’s beginning, variety of people who have inhabited it over the years, and the politics that complicated it. Never does he leave out what he believes to be the few shining glories of the town: the libraries and museums.
Readers can start to see more of Harvey’s personality when he adds autobiographical details to his story. His nostalgic way of relating his love life, his decent job that he cannot seem to leave behind, his love for music and literature of all kinds, and finally getting books published and having fans come to his home just to meet him is especially endearing. Harvey makes readers feel his pain and frustration with his life and city, as well as the aspirations of which he never lets go.
Though the tone of the majority of Cleveland seems nonchalant, it is not a deterrent to the story. Instead, it shows that Harvey has been through it all and feels he needs to let others know in a way that will allow them to come to their own conclusions about him and the city of Cleveland.
Image Courtesy of pennstatelive