Monday, April 21, 2008

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

"Fun" in this case is short for "funeral" and it captures perfectly the essence of this "tragic-comic."

This book makes a compelling argument that the graphic-novel is perhaps the ideal form for memoir/autobiography (in the same vein, Art Spielgman's "Maus" immediately comes to mind as well.) I guess they should be called graphic-memoirs. Alison Bechdel has made a name for herself as a lesbian comic-writer (Dykes to Watch Out For) but what a shame if, like me, you are initially put off by the gay tag. There is just so much more to this brave, deeply honest and touching story of a person in search of a personal narrative. It's about unteasing tightly knotted threads (that can easily tear), about secrets badly kept, lies badly told, myth-making and busting, and the love that holds a family together in spite of itself. The epicentre is the author's relationship with her father, one that is part Daedalus/Icarus, part Stephen Daedalus/Leopold Bloom (I know they're not father/son, you have to read the book to understand the reference.) Bechdel is as gifted an artist as she is a storyteller and this is as much the story of an artist "coming-out" as it is a lesbian, probably more so (see also James Joyce.) Her panels have the feel of being both entirely fresh and archival at the same time, like genuine snapshots from a family photo album that have been filtered through an utterly present and contemporary consciousness.

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