Monday, June 30, 2008

21. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home pictureMy sister strongly recommended this graphic novel to me and judging by the high-level accolades on the cover, she is not alone. This was the hot comic of the year and I completely missed it. It's the biography of a girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 60sand 70s. Her father is gay and she figures out pretty quickly that she is too. Their relationship is complex and difficult. The book is structured in a very complex way as well, as Bechdel jumps back and forth in time, revealing different things here and there, going back to already revealed incidents and adding layers of understanding to them. It makes for a very fulfilling read because by the time you get to the end of it, you really get the "ah, yes" sensation where everything comes together in a rich and real way. The ending isn't necessarily happy. The family difficulties are not solved or absolved, but you as the reader get a sense of really understanding the situation, even being a part of it. This is why sometimes comics are better than books.

Despite my appreciation of the structure, the subject matter is not the most endearing to me. It's very academic and intellectual, with heavy references to Proust and Joyce. If you had studied them, I imagine the book would have even more depth, but I don't have so much time for that kind of literature of melancholy. The same goes for the struggles of the young lesbian, several of which I experienced first hand in liberal arts school (most whom lasted a few years before the inevitable defection to heterosexual marriage and procreation). In this case, the struggle seems genuine, but it just doesn't interest me all that much (compared to say something interesting and straight like one man trying to shoot or stab another man). But those are my personal preferences and should not detract in any way from what is a really engrossing and satisfying graphic novel.
Fun Home picture

1 comment:

dsgran said...

I seem to pick this up on the shelf every time I'm at the bookstore. Not sure if this review has pushed me to actually purchase it, but it does seem like an interesting story.