Thursday, July 26, 2007

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home

My friend Norah told me to read this months ago, but it was still in hardcover so I didn't. Now that it's in paperback I thought I'd give it a try. It's terrifyingly good -- terrifying because it's a graphic novel, and, er, I can't draw. During the last couple years I've had the unnerving sense that far more exciting things are happening in the world of graphic novels than in regular fiction. Cartoonists have found ways to express truth, beauty, and surprise that make traditional, non-visual narratives seem flat. Worst of all: any fool can type up a page of prose, but only handful of us can draw. I ain't one of them, and that hurts.

I called "Fun Home" a "graphic novel," but actually it's a graphic memoir. Bechdel, of "Dykes To Watch Out For," (I have to admit that the title of that comic always bugged me -- why "watch out for"? Are they going to become famous, or just, like a mean dog, bite me on the thigh?) writes and draws about her childhood in small town Pennsylvania and her coming of age as a lesbian, and the simultaneous realization that her father -- who died in a suspicious, possibly suicidal, accident -- was probably gay too. Bechdel's art is less "arty" and self-conscious than that of Daniel Clowes, and more like Marjane Satrapi's -- frank and straight-forward and wordy. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses of Bechdel's college life. Hey -- isn't that my alma mater?

She has a fun blog, too.

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