On Books: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

So, as I get into a Larger Project or two– details to come– here is a review I did some time ago and posted elsewhere. It is basically everyone’s favorite review, though, so I thought I should share it.

Sad, compelling, and strange. I’m a fan of comics– graphic novels if you wish, or in this case a graphic memoir. Even though I can’t find many parallels between Bechdel’s family life and my own, I was still struck by how much I felt for her. My own father is the opposite of Bechdel’s– large, gentle, content, and masculine– but I could see shadows of Bechdel’s relationship with her father in my own more recent history. The places that self loathing can take a person are truly terrible, as are the ways a person can inflict their own self hatred onto others. Combine that with secrets and lies, and you have a truly vicious mix. All of this comes across in Fun Home.

It’s remarkable that as sad as this book is, it is also beautiful and personal and brilliant. She doesn’t forget to put the “fun” in Fun Home. The title is an ironic artifact from Bechdel’s past, but it works both as a foil for the contents of the story and as a description of the read. Some of the materials in this book seem pointed directly at me, like a gun– James Joyce’s Ulysses, Charles Addams’ drawings– and perhaps that is part of why I responded so strongly to this book. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly an arresting and entertaining read.

Don’t assume that just because it’s a comic it’s for younger children, though. Hopefully you don’t do that, but it’s best to warn people up front.


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