Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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Wash my illusions away

I've been reading some of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comics, and they really are quite interesting, more so than I thought they would be. I mean Pekar is something of a beknighted prick, but his ability to turn mundane tales of ordinary life into interesting and funny visual anecdotes is quite impressive, even if he did have to berate the artists into doing the drawing for him.

An interesting thing about Pekar is that even though he views himself as anti-social and caustic he still has a lot of friends and writes primarily about social interactions. It's especially interesting how he managed to cultivate so many contacts among creative people of note. That's something that I really haven't done nearly enough of. Part of it is that I went to college while living off campus and part of it is just my generally antisocial nature and belief that most people aren't interested in me.

I live in New York and there should be some sort of creative community that I could slip into, but I have massive resistance to doing that. Part of it is that I consider a lot of people in those types of communities to be beneath me, or at the very least panderers. There's too much of a cheerleading support-group vibe that goes on. I hate that shit, I mean it's good to recognize people's achievements and praise them for the parts of what they do that are great, but when you focus on looking only at the good aspects of a given work you help retard it's growth.

I should still make more of an effort to get out there. I don't know if I'm ready, but I recognize that I should.

Of course Pekar was writing this stuff in an age before the internet, and I don't know if he would have gone out to the corner or the collecting shops or wherever had he had the option of logging on to his computer to talk about Jazz or whatever. The internet's changed a lot of the ways that marginalized groups socialize. Not enough research has been done on this.

The other thing that struck me about Pekar's work is the fact that he calls his filing clerk job the cornerstone of his life. Granted this stuff was written prior to his hitting it relatively big with his comics and getting all the praise, and at least some of the financial reward, that he craved, but I wouldn't want to spend 20 years of my life laboring away at a horrible job that may, barely, pay the bills but provides absolutely no intellectual stimulation (although he liked some of his coworkers)

I have a college degree now, but that's meaningless. Everyone has a college degree, and it doesn't help them find work. Maybe I'm supposed to believe that a high GPA and a fancy name on the Diploma will be a big boon, but I don't, not really. The fact is that a college degree doesn't mean what it once did. Now it's a necessary, but not sufficient, part of getting a job that pays more than 3 cents an hour. Thank you stratification of America! Thanks Republicans!

I don't know how I'd handle years of menial jobs like that. I grew up middle class and it's nice, to have a decent amount of money and not worry so much about reasonable purchases. I've often said that I don't need or even want to be filthy rich, and that's true. I don't know what I would do with more than $10 million (up to there there's stuff I'd like. A house on a nice ski slope. A personal swimming pool etc...) but likewise I'm not sure I'd know what to do on, say, under $30,000 a year. Especially without medical insurance. I don't want to be rich, but I would like to be comfortable.

There's also a prestige factor, one that I don't like to admit matters to me but that does to an extent. Going to an elite college was kind of nice, and being considered one of the smarter students there didn't hurt. Powerful people tell you that you're the future leaders of this great country and that the blue-bloods have their hopes pinned to your poorly tied necktie.

I'm not sure it'll be such the thrill to be the intellectual giant of Gordon's Copy Shoppe. Now this may not be my fate if I can get into a fancy pants filmschool. Then I might at the very least be able to do crew work on creative projects, something that allows one to leave one's positive imprint on said projects. Maybe I could get an editing job somewhere, that would be at least somewhat satisfactory and stimulating, if not prestigious. I could probably live with that if I could live on whatever they paid.

Pekar's obsessed with getting sex from women, at least in his early work. That's not exactly a rare characteristic for a youngish male, especially one with low self-esteem. It's not something that concerns me at the moment. The truth is that absent the presence of a particularly desireable potentially eligible female, my desire levels drop off a cliff and the thoughts of relationships don't enter my mind except in its analytic capacity.

Reading Pekar is interesting, but it's also intimidating. I know he eventually found the success he craved, he has dorks like me reading him these days, don't he, and he seems to live a rather happy life considering what a cranky neurotic Jew he is.

On the other hand there are probably dozens of Harvey Pekar equivalents who never cut it. Who continued to live in their rat hole Cleveland apartments and drank themselves to death. Heck in some ways Pekar was ahead of me at my age. He was already published (albeit in niche magazines, that he insists on calling nationally distributed even after he's found success, some sort of defense mechanism for his younger self) at 19 and he had his own place, shithole or not.

Failure and poverty haunt my thoughts these days, partially because I've never really experienced them. I've had some rough knocks in my life, it hasn't been champagne and caviar on the Champs-Elysees, but it's always held that promise, and one day it might not, and that scares me. I've made my decision, really I have even if there's nothing in particular holding me back from renegging, and now I'm wearing my fingernails to the nub worrying about it.

The truth is that I'm not too concerned about being a failure in the way that Harvey Pekar was a failure until recently. He produced some damned good art, even if it gets repetitive after awhile, and did something special. I think that'd be enough for little old me.

I'm worried about having Harvey Pekar's life without his talent and production. About not finding a voice, like he did. His work is American splendor because he divests himself of the contrivances of exciting plots or glamorous characters and exposes the power of narrative voice in what's pretty close to a styllistic void (though not's complicated.)

I don't know. I'm okay right now. I had a decent day reading and writing, the siren's call of TV receeds further and further into the distance the older I get, to the point where now I'm only interested if there's something good, or a Mets game, on. Even then it's a sure thing that I'll watch more than a few minutes. In some ways it's a limited medium, and I hate commercials more than I hate having an itchy anus.

I didn't go out walking today because my shins were a little twinged. The whole of this last semester my shins were in pain because of the various exercises I was doing and now I want to take care of them so that they can recover and I don't end up like Hanks' father on King of the Hill, a shinless wonder.

One other interesting thing about Harvey Pekar's work is that it's all collaboration. Sometimes I think that's what I need too, someone to collaborate with. Collaboration is helpful in many ways, for one it can light a fire under you and get you to work in order not to let the other person down (though sometimes the other person turns out to be a procrastinating son-of-a-bitch who drags you down with him). It can also help smooth out your flaws and if you find someone whose talents compliment your own the two (or more, I'm all for being poly when it comes to creative endeavours. Artistic threesomes are the stuff of life! And I'm not talking about fingerpaints and good lighting.) of you can create something special that might be beyond the range of either as an artist, or even greater than any one person is capable of on their own. It's weird how solitary types often crave collaborators when it comes to work. Weird, or obvious, depending on how you view the phenomenon.

I'll have to explore that more at a later date.

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