Friday, September 14, 2007

"... whatever else might have been going on, books were being read."

When i grow up i want to write like Alison Bechdel. She has such an understated, honest way with words (i delude myself into thinking i write that way but she does it so much better~the way i want to). She is both witty and wry. I remember we used to carry her comic Dykes to Watch Out For in my bookstore and now she's come out with an autobiographical graphic novel: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic a tale of her childhood and early young adulthood.The Fun Home of the title is a shortened form of the "Funeral Home" that makes up the family business as well as a reference to her father's obsession with restoring their Gothic revival style house in rural Pennsylvania to its former splendor. Her father and mother are both English teachers and both distant in their own way. Although Bechdel has two brothers this is really a father and daughter story with the rest of the family revolving around that story. As Bechdel comes of age and tries to come to terms with who she is and who she is becoming, she searches her father's closeted homosexual (actually more than homosexual~as it involved teenage boys for the most part and there is an important distinction to be made there) life and, later, death by apparent suicide (which came about a mere four months after her own coming-out). This novel is not, however, a "gay" novel, it is truly about family relationships and it is often framed by literary works (from classical myth, to Proust, to Joyce, to Camus)~as Bechdel's was a literary family.
Few authors could write with such depth and yet such a deft touch on a subject that is so emotionally close to their own heart. It is that deft touch which makes this book such a work of art.

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