Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fun Home


I was never a big fan of Dykes To Watch Out For (kind of a dull, realistic lesbian soap opera serial) but Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home blew me away.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for literary allusion. Maybe I’m especially a sucker for memoir executed through the prism of literary allusion. Maybe I’m a super-soaker-sucker for literarily allusive memoirs whose authors claim really to have experienced their lives in large part through books, and whose central relationships are highly mediated through literature. (Though I’m not sure that’s really a genre. The only other example I can think of is Sartre’s The Words.)

Each chapter in Fun Home approaches that central relationship—Alison Bechdel’s relationship to her father—through another author: Fitzgerald, Proust, Joyce. These aren’t the books Bechdel claims to have loved during the most crucial time in the book, but the ones her father gave her to read. He was a high school English teacher, after all.

He was also an undertaker—“Fun Home” is what the kids called the funeral home—and closeted. All through Bechdel’s childhood apparently he had affairs with high-school-aged boys. She found out only when she herself came out to her parents, though she says that at the time she did, she hadn’t actually had sex with a woman yet. She’d only experienced her sexuality through what turned her on in books.

I can’t be sure, of course, but I don’t think Fun Home would have worked nearly as well as unillustrated prose. Bechdel’s drawing is unobtrusive but accomplished, the work of someone who’s been working at comics, in full pages, for many years now. She never asks the reader to stop on any panel, but when I went back and looked only at the art I was impressed with how skillfully she varies her layouts to create effects and draws scenes from a variety of unexpected angles. Often when comic artists draw impressively, they remind me of movies, but Bechdel achieves something more impressive still: she makes her images feel like memories.

Previews below. Click to enlarge.


  • At 5:03 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Wow, you have pretty much convinced me to get this book, and I was really really really not a fan of hers.

    I'm trying to think of other examples of the sub subgenre you described. There's a Woody Allen short story along those lines. I can think of a couple movie characters, but, strangely, not characters from novels.


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