Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Fun Home

Fun HomeFun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

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I didn’t know who Alison Bechdel was before reading this graphic novel; all I knew is that it was under some heavy scrutiny (i.e., censorship challenges) in some library systems, so I thought I would check it out.  Now, I understand that she’s the author of the popular GLBT comic, “Dykes to Watch out For.”  I’ve heard of the strip, but never read it.

Fun Home is a graphic memoir of Bechdel’s life (more or less), up to her father’s death when she was in college.  This could have been a memoir about growing up gay, and while it does touch on that point many times, it’s more a memoir of the relationship (such as it was) with her father.  As the memoir tells us, she grew up in a very clinical environment, where her father spent more time working on renovating their house than he did spending time with his children.  He worked as an English teacher and as the proprieter of a funeral home (from which the name of this book is derived), so the only times he connected with the author was when they talked literature.

I’m unsure what to think of this book.  I don’t have a problem with the issues in the book (which are what raised the challenges in the first place), but I didn’t really know how to feel about it.  Bechdel’s story is told in a very clinical, emotionless, almost detached manner, making it difficult to feel connected with the people.  It wasn’t until I was two-thirds of the way through the book that I realized that the characters are all drawn with the same expression — abject neutrality.  There are very few expressions of emotion on any of them, so when there are (either laughing, smiling, or the more common rages), they come as a shock.  I guess this is the author’s way of keeping her story objective despite it being a biography.  Regardless, I felt like there was a lack of connection to the people in the book because of this.

Of course, I’m not a reader of nonfiction.  I read fiction, and I’m used to stories that involve a conflict, and end with a resolution and change.  Fun Home has some aspects of this, but the biographical style is restrictive enough to keep it from having the sort of flow I expected.  What I find most interesting is that, though her brothers and mother play some role in her life, the real focus is on her and her father.  The rest of her family serve as peripheral characters throughout the memoir.

I don’t really get this, but I didn’t get Harvey Pekar’s The Quitter, either, and these are of the same genre.  I suppose if you liked that one, then you’ll like this one, too.

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December 7, 2006 - Posted by | Graphic Novels, Reviews

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