On average, Americans read, something like 1.5 books per year. Odds are the cover and title is the only experience with your book most people with have. That title has to connect like a pop song. 

Caroline and I are making a book. The first thing we did was pick a title. This might seem backwards, naming something that doesn’t exist. Unless that name is the inspiration to kick off the project. Which it is. So, here’s the title:

HARVEY PELICAN

And here's the story.

PART 1, told by Ira

About six years ago I was at a craft show in New Hampshire selling my art and comics. Late in the afternoon, when the crowd thinned out, I had a chance to browse the other vendors. At one booth I saw a strange juxtaposition: A table of homemade soaps, lip balms and lotions arranged neatly next to a framed illustration of a pelican. An old woman stood behind the table, I smiled at her and pretended to browse the soaps, but it was clear to her I was looking at the pelican. 

“This is the only drawing I’ve ever made. I don’t know where it came from.” She said. As someone who is both a self-reflective thinker and an illustrator, her statement struck me in a weird way. 

“You’re selling it?” I asked.

“What am I going to do with a drawing of a pelican?”

To be clear, I am not normally an ironic art owner. Still, I bought the picture for $6 and she was happy to be rid of it. I am not in love the drawing but I am in love with it’s strange existence. For her it represented an unremarkable moment in her life she’d chosen to forget. To me, the drawing was an object without a history, like a thing from another world.

PART 2, told by Ira

For a year or so I was a regular contributor to the seminal horror pulp Weird Tales. I created a story about a catalog of merchandise, modeled on the old Sears and Roebuck Catalog from the 1930s. The catalog acted as a journal by a man who lived in the catalog’s merchandise warehouse. According to the man, all the merchandise appeared in the warehouse, as if out of nowhere, revealing details of a parallel universe. The project was inspired by the pelican drawing from the craft show. So I named the catalog, Harvey Pelican and Co.

from the Harvey Pelican Catalog courtesy of Weird Tales Magazine.   Ira Marcks, 2004-6

PART 3, told by Caroline

"The other night Ira and I asked Ira about the book title and he said, 'I wanted to call it Harvey Pelican but I’m not sure anymore. I like the Pelican part but I don’t know about the name Harvey.'  I really liked the name, though, it immediately made me smile, because both names connect to a different grandparent for me.

When I was little girl, my grandfather, Barney, used to tell me and my brothers that a giant rabbit named Harvey (Guessing it's a Jimmy Stewart reference from his era?) hiding behind this wall in his basement.  Harvey would leave little gifts for us, and we would leave him notes, drawings, and really anything just in hopes that he might come out. He never did, and by the time I was old enough to realize that there wasn't a rabbit living behind the oil burner, I was just so in awe of how adorable Barney was with us."

PART 4, told by Caroline

"My grandmother's maiden name is "Pelicane," and she always wore a fancy gold pelican pin when we were growing up. So I always think of her when I hear the word. After that we decided Harvey Pelican was probably meant to be."

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AuthorIra Marcks