It’s probably for the best if I stick with something simple for a while. Like book reviews. Although I’m sure you will all be happy to know that Sammy just received his Christmas Eve bath. I think I blasted enough mud and grass out of his wheel wells that I could build my own Smurf village. Yes, I went with the Smurfs.
So, anyway…Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. This was another ImagiFriendTM gift. This is also another graphic novel, although I think it’s more appropriate to call it a graphic memoir, in both the literal and figurative sense of the word.
I’m amazed that two of the most powerful and moving memoirs have come to me in the form of the graphic novel. This, of course, falls as one of the two. The other would be the two-part graphic novel series Maus by Art Spiegelman. Both Bechdel and Spiegelman use the strengths of their artistic skills to bring to life their struggle to understand their fathers, and how the troubles and conflicts of their fathers’ lives carved out their own paths. Whether or not there is a positive lining to these truths is what ultimately Spiegelman and Bechdel are left to struggle with in their own unique ways.
For Bechdel, she is left to wrestle with the memories of her father, an erudite intellectual who invested far more time in the restoration and repair of old homes than he did in the strengthening and sustaining of his own family structure. The title comes from what she and her brothers used to call the family business: a funeral home her father inherited from his father. There are quite a few things going on throughout the telling of this tale, including Bechdel’s realizations about her sexuality and how these revelations become overshadowed by revelations of her father’s own sexuality and the “accident” that ended his life amidst the unraveling of secret sins that Bechdel and her family were left to process after his death.
Bechdel’s art work is gorgeous, clean, and intricate…sharp contrasts to the more primitive and raw imagery of Ollmann’s This Will All End In Tears. Thanks to the journals that she kept throughout her childhood, her storytelling is equally precise and intricate as she plumbs the depths of memory and tries to discover the truth of how her life and her father’s intertwined in such complex and ultimately bittersweet patterns.
Final score: 5/5. Too often I have heard fellow book geeks dismiss graphic novels as undeserving of attention or analysis. To them I say, you are missing some of the most amazing storytelling to come about in modern literature. Don’t let book snobbery keep you from discovering the depth of the materials such as Fun Home.