Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Review: Fun Home

Finally got around to reading Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; let's take a couple of minutes for a quick review. No spoilers that really matter: while this book has one or two surprises, that isn't really what it's about.

Capsule Summary: just buy it and read it, okay? Everything else is simply commentary.

msmemory and I have been fans of Bechdel's Dykes To Watch Out For for many years now, ever since stumbling across one of the collections in Million Year Picnic many volumes ago. Trite though the comparison is, the association that's always come to mind is that it's the lesbian intellectual version of For Better or For Worse -- a periodical comic that, while it does have its share of jokes, is really just the ongoing story of a bunch of normal, honestly-drawn people. DTWOF is a good deal better-written (if sometimes a bit too political for its own good), but it has that same flavor of being mainly a linear narrative about a bunch of folks going through their lives. I kind of expected Fun Home to be similar: a straightforward, linear biography. I was incorrect.

When I was halfway through the book, I was mentally calling it "musings". It seems to wander and ramble at times, talking about Bechdel's life in general. But the reality is that this is a very focused book, whose structure is just very subtle. The best description, I think, is that it is a spiral. Much of the book is spent circling around and around the main topic, and it isn't until you get around it a few times that you begin to realize the circular nature of the thing. And when it ends, you feel less like having gotten to the end of a line, than to the middle of that spiral: all the distractions left to the side, you get just a quiet meditation on the real topic.

That topic is two topics, really: Bechdel's relationship with her father, and both of them dealing with their sexuality. Her own self-discovery as a lesbian is so deeply intertwined with that relationship that she doesn't even try to separate the subjects. Instead, she gradually pulls both together until you really can't see them as separate, just two key threads in her life, along with the joint love of literature that helps them understand each other a little.

Don't come into this expecting nice clear plot, or thrilling action. This is a quiet little contemplation of a book. But it's certainly added itself to my list of the ten best things ever written in graphic-novel form, and is the most human and intimate book on that list. Recommended without reservations: like I said, just read it...
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