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A Month of Good LGBT Comics – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

In conjunction with Prism Comics, the preeminent website for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) comics and creators, every day this month I will be detailing one good comic book/graphic novel with LGBT themes.

Here‘s an archive of the featured works so far!

Today we look at one of the most acclaimed works featured this month.

Fun Home is Alison Bechdel’s powerful memoir primarily about her relationship with her father, who died in an accident (Bechdel believes it was suicide) at the age of 44 soon after Bechdel came out to her family. She soon discovered that her father, himself, was a closeted homosexual.

The book took years for Bechdel to complete, mostly because she was meticulous in her attention to detail (not to mention her methods of drawing people included her posing for each figure).

While the narrative of the book is a strong one (examining the life of her closeted father as she herself awakens to her own homosexuality), the key to this book is clearly the deep, emotional resonance the characters evoke to the reader, which is due to a brilliant piece of characterization by Bechdel of herself AND her father.

The “Fun Home” of the title was the family’s funeral home that her father ran besides his job as an English teacher.

There is no linear plot to the book, as it mostly contains Bechdel reflecting on various points of her life – it is all very powerful stuff.

Here are some sample pages from the site for Fun Home that her publisher put up (check out the page here).

See the impressive way she reflects upon both herself and her father?

The whole book is filled with stuff like that, all with great artwork by Bechdel.

This is truly a masterpiece of comic book literature, and deserves all the acclaim it received (which was a LOT).

8 Comments

No, I don’t think Fun Home deserve all the acclaim it got. It’s, at best, an OK graphic novel. Most of it, even being well drawn (and it’s obvious that Bechdel knows about the comic medium and storytelling), is filled with presumptious, and egocentric rethoric. In any way Fun Home can be labeled as brave, seen that Bledchel hides behind the torrent of authors that had lives that, look, what a shock!, just happened to be exactly like the life she has. A tool that had all to be a great way of leading the reader inside the story, that could be an interesting way of guiding us and showing us — in methafors — what the character was feeling, becomes an arrogant stream of names that transform the Bechdel-character in a snob prick, instead of a relatable person.

Nothing wrong with being an educated person! As a bacharel in social communications and the son of two college teachers, I can assure you I know every author Bedchelcompares herself to. Don’t get me wrong here. But as Bechdel-Character insists in comparing her life to the life of great authors over and over again, the already thin line that conects her character to the reader, becomes more and more hide in the distant, eventualy causing the reader (or at least me, as I think I already indicated) to be a spectador of a bad life story.

A well told bad life story, granted, but bad nontheless and increasingly boring, as pages go by.

What struck me, firts off, was the level of detail in the art. bechdel isn’t a Dave Gibbons or Geoff Darrow type, but her soft line somehow captures so many different types of nuance in the faces, hair, and architecture. And, my god, the text! She had pictures of books in here. Normallyt he artist scans in a page of a book, and lets that be the illustration. But Bechdel photographed the text, and redrew a dozen different fonts! in perspective! On pages that were curving! All this just to keep her soft line consistent from panel to panel.

It made it to EW’s list of the 100 best books of the least 25 years, one of the few graphic novels to do so. And it deserves its place.

And as a counterpoint to the above comment….I find the book brilliant and heart-wrenching. Coming from a similarly well-read yet emotionally distant family dynamic, I found all the literary allusions as her way of exploring her childhood in an emotionally safe context as well as being the prime way she and her father were able to finally connect a little as she headed into young adulthood. I don’t doubt that it strikes people as strange and cold, given the types of reactions I’ve induced describing my own family life, but if it’s how they genuinely communicated, then it’s not invalid either.

Anyway, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally adore it and am eagerly awaiting her next memoir.

Sorry, I was counterpointing to the first comment.

I read it a year ago, after hearing all the praise heaped on it, and I loved it. I recommended it to my “serious book” reading friends, and they loved it too. It’s not perfect, there are some slow parts, and can feel a bit too pretentious, but overall, I give the book a 9/10.

If you must refer to Alison Bechdel as snobby genitalia I would think that snob vagina would be more apropos. I simply cannot envision this particular writer as a snob prick. Yes, snob vagina is without a doubt more fitting.

Also, I do agree that it is very egocentric to write an egocentric memoir. One’s memoir should never be focused on the self… it’s just, well, egocentric. Branch out and write someone else’s memoir next time Bechdel, you snob vagina, you!

Alas, I must confess, egocentric memoir or not, I adored this book…. Fun Home is beautifully designed and drawn, story and words entwined, it’s sad, sweet, fun, funny, intimate, universal… The story is sincerely delivered, not at all pretentious, a true effort to share a very personal story, authentically, using techniques that the author employs with enviable talent and devotion and a bit of obsession.

But, you see, there’re other memoir books that, even though the author is talking about him(her) self, I find more easy to relate, more enjoyable to read. Blankets and Paul Has a Summer Job are two that comes to mind right now. I’ve never been to a summer camp in my life, and I never dated anybody that had a mentally challenge sibling, but both of those books are, to me, much more “sad, sweet, fun, funny, intimate and universal”.

We’re debating personal taste here, which is not very useful, but I think it’s a valuable discussion nonetheles. And if nothing else, makes this book a must read, since it sparked a more deep discussion than “this sucks” or “I loved it”.

You’re right Leandro… so true.

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