Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fun Home: A Tragicomic

by Alison Bechdel

This graphic novel, a memoir of growing up as the daughter of a closeted gay funeral home director and later coming out as a lesbian, is one of the best-crafted stories I've read in a while. Bechdel jumps between her father's life and her own, from her childhood to her early adulthood, weaving allusions to James Joyce and Oscar Wilde in seamlessly. She portrays her father as an eccentric, cold, unlikeable man, and indeed much of the story seems to be justifying her anger toward him, but somehow she manages to use this harsh portrayal of her father to make her love for him convincingly apparent.

As is my tendency, I read myself into this book, wondering how S-Boogie will see me, her semi-closeted gay father, twenty or thirty years from now. I think it's safe to say, though, that I am not quite as neurotic as Bechdel's father, who seems to have seen his children as little more than assistants in his neverending quest to remake his antique home into a masterpiece of architecture and interior decoration.

What stands out to me most in Fun Home is Bechdel's literariness. She takes her life from the personal to the universal by tying it to literary giants from Homer to Virginia Woolf. In recreating and reviewing her life, Bechdel applies the lens of classic literature, and she does so naturally because these great books were such a part of her growing up, they become characters in her story. I look at my current attempt to write something approaching a memoir, and I'm incredibly jealous of Bechdel's superior craft. Tolkien Boy once praised the allusiveness of my writing, but my allusions to pop musicians and superheroes pale in comparison to Bechdel's ability to casually throw in a reference to Fitzgerald and make it work. I could try, but the truth is that high culture is not naturally a part of me as much as it is for Bechdel. This may have something to do with the intellectual envy I have for geniuses like Tolkien Boy, FoxyJ, and pretty much everyone else I surround myself with.

At any rate, read Fun Home. Even if you're a low-brow brute like myself, you'll enjoy it. I give it only four and a half fobs simply because it has a couple somewhat graphic lesbian sex scenes, and I find lesbian sex utterly uninteresting.


Th. said...


GLSSs? Say no more!

Melyngoch said...

I find lesbian sex endlessly interesting. This just moved to the top of my to-read list.

Samantha said...

I find people who find lesbian sex endlessly interesting, endlessly interesting. Melyngoch just moved to the top of my highly-esteemed people list.

Master Fob, on the other hand, because of his lack of interest, just dropped a few levels.

I'm giving Th. the benefit of the doubt, and assuming his comment indicated interest. He may stay.