Snap Judgment: Harvey Pekar’s version of Studs Terkel’s Working

Note: This isn’t photographic, but I think it’s sufficiently relevant since some of the problems are problems familiar to photography.

I came across this today while browsing at Moe’s. I was immediately intrigued, because I love Terkel, and I’ve been reading more and more comics lately. I’m always in favor of combining things I like, even when it results in what can only be called questionable meal choices.

However, in this case, I think it’s a mistake. Images should never have been added to these words. Terkel’s peculiar magic is to present us with peoples’ stories in such a way that we feel part of this intimate discussion. When reading Terkel, it’s hard not to lean in closer to listen and not miss anything.

The artwork — while not necessarily objectionable in itself — breaks the spell. It prevents us from imaginatively reconstructing these slices of history, it intrudes, it breaks the dialogue by introducing a third party, a third wheel.

It rather reminds me of the reading The Maltese Falcon after first seeing the Bogart film. I love the movie, and the book, but the incredibly vivid black and white experience of the film totally prevented me from experiencing Hammett’s sometimes vivid color descriptions. And that was years later; I wasn’t contending with illustrations grafted onto the prose itself.

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