Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fun Home (A Family Tragicomic)

I read a chapter of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 (ed. Dave Eggers). Usually the Nonrequired books are filled with amazing things. The 2007 version was uneven, to say the least - but it had a couple of gems. The first is an essay by Conan O'Brien (a commencement address to a high school), which is worth the price of the book (or at least sitting down in your local bookstore for the 15 minutes it takes to read) and the second is that chapter that introduced me to Bechdel.

Fun Home is a memoir about Bechdel and her family. Her father was the director of a funeral home, and "fun home" was their nickname for the building. Bechdel's story-telling and artistry are really quite breathtaking. Fun Home chronicles her own awareness of her sexuality as a child and a young adult, and her growing understanding of her father's homosexuality, which was largely a shameful secret to him. Bechdel beautifully and honestly writes about her relationship with her father - a man who was not outwardly loving or affectionate, but intellectually challenging and in other ways, supportive.

Fun Home is one of those comic books that prove what a "high" art form they can be - Bechdel relates her story to James Joyce's Ulysses, and includes references to dozens of other books and influential works of literature. I found myself wanting to take notes to put together a hell of a reading list.

Bechdel also writes another strip - Dykes to Watch Out For - it looks like they're mostly online.

I'd recommend Fun Home to just about anyone - but especially comic book readers. It's a sensitive and amazing story, and I think she proves how useful the medium is for memoirs!

1 comment:

Lyman said...

Bechdel is great, her semi-autobiographical style is a popular one in comics.