An erudite,self-aware feminist memoir, in graphic novel form, examining a lesbian's childhood relationship with her parents - especially her closetedAn erudite, self-aware feminist memoir, in graphic novel form, examining a lesbian's childhood relationship with her parents - especially her closeted gay father. Fun Home is chock full of psychoanalysis, literary criticism and commentary on gender, sexuality and suicide. You may recognise the author's name from her Bechdel Test, which 'asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man' to indicate gender bias (Wikipedia).
I grew to resent the way my father treated his furniture like children, and his children like furniture.
Bruce taught high school English while also being a part-time funeral director. Renovating old houses, including his own, was his obsessive hobby. Affairs with men and sex with his students got him into trouble. Criminal charges were pressed when he gave an underage boy beer, code for the real accusation of homosexuality.
He KILLED HIMSELF because he was a manic depressive, closeted FAG and he couldn't face living in this small-minded small town one more SECOND.
...and when we'd go to New York, he'd go out alone at night. Once he got body lice! But it's not just the... the... affairs. It's the shoplifting, the speed tickets, the lying, his rages.
A couple of weeks before Bruce's death, Alison's mother told Bruce she was divorcing him. If he hadn't (maybe) killed himself by walking out in front of a truck, Bechdel ponders whether she would've lost him to AIDS a few years later.
I measured my father against the grimy deer hunters at the gas station uptown, with their yellow workboots and shorn-sheep haircuts. And where he fell short, I stepped in . . . Not only were we inverts. We were inversions of one another.
Bechdel suggests she compensated for her father's stereotypical feminine qualities--for example, trying to force her to like and wear girly things, and his fondness for the tiniest details of decorating and gardening and flowers--by becoming more butch, masculine.
While Alison always wanted to be a boy, she loved dressing in boys' clothes, Bruce confessed he'd wanted to be a girl. Interfered with as a child, his battle with gender and sexual identity issues and his manic depressive nature surely made for an exceptionally frustrated man.
Perhaps my eagerness to claim him as "gay" in the way I am "gay," as opposed to bisexual or some other category, is just a way of keeping him to myself--a sort of inverted Oedipal Complex.
Although Bechdel seemed to resent her father in childhood, she ultimately felt closer to him after learning of their shared homosexuality. Her relationship with her mother, on the other hand, felt mildly distant and awkward especially in her younger years when a 13-year-old Alison struggled to tell her mother she'd started her period. But those years were fraught with anxieties as OCD gradually monopolized Alison's childhood.
Fun Home is emotionally intelligent despite Bechdel's self-confessed difficulty with expressing her feelings. Although it reads like she swallowed an Oxford dictionary, an Oxford Companion to English Literature and several psychology textbooks, it's intimidating nature in its depth and astuteness is still accessible to those who haven't read the relevant books.
Bechdel's autobiographical journey is told through books and their relevance to her and her family. Most references are made to classic literature and their authors, some of which I haven't read. Albert Camus. Ernest Hemingway. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The Taming of the Shrew. Venus in Furs. James and the Giant Peach. Wallace Stevens. Marcel Proust. Morning's At Seven. Wind in the Willows. The Importance of Being Earnest and Oscar Wilde. Catcher in the Rye. James Joyce. The Odyssey. Earthly Paradise by Colette. Virgina Woolf. Flying by Kate Millett. The myth of Icarus and his father. And many, many more.
I've got to say I'm curious as to what Bechdel thought of her Philosophy of Art class, whether she found it as confounding as I did.
'A graphic narrative of uncommon richness, depth, literary resonance and psychological complexity.'Kirkus Reviews
Fun Home is the perfect book for studying. It's themes of feminism, lesbianism, psychoanalysis and literary discussion are all written with self-deprecating black humour and irony, making for a compelling read.
As Chast's parents aged, she recognised the need to care for them, and she did, until they died. Graphic novel memoirCan't We Talk about Something MorAs Chast's parents aged, she recognised the need to care for them, and she did, until they died. Graphic novel memoir Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? details her uncensored journey with humour and poignancy, examining her changing relationships with them along the way.
Being a middle aged married mother, Chast had alot on her plate already without having to worry about her 90-year-old parents living a couple of hours away. But when the increasing grime and clutter became disturbing, and as they refused to get someone in to help, it was time to move them into assisted living. Convincing them that this was for best was difficult, to say the least.
Roz:How's your cataract-removal-operation recovery coming along?
Mother:GREAT! It's like there was a yellow scrim over everything - and now it's GONE! I still have a patch over the eye, though. But not to worry: there's plenty of food in the house - Daddy and I just came back from Waldbaum's!
Roz:Mom! Listen to me. You can't drive with one eye. You have no DEPTH PERCEPTION!!!
Mother:Not a problem. Daddy guided me.
Chast's experience really resonated with me. She confesses to the things I feel embarrassed to admit, things I feel guilty about, as well as detailing the weirder and more messy aspects of illness and advancing age. I definitely related to the tedium of the never-ending paperwork.
Relationships with her parents were complex. Her mother was brash and never hesitated to give a 'blast from Chast'. Roz's father, on the other hand, was the exact opposite.
...he was kind and sensitive. He knew that my mother had a terrible temper, and that she could be overpowering. She had a thick skin. He, like me, did not. She often accused my father of "waling around with his feelers out."
In many ways, my father and I were more alike than my mother and I. We were both only children, and less used to the constant emotional tumult between people than my mother, who was one of five.
Although the subject matter is somewhat frightening in reminding us of our mortality, Chast's memoir isn't depressing. It's frank and reassuring. Death is only mysterious because we don't talk about it. By shining a light on the end stages of life, I feel informed. I've been enlightened.
"The Devil doesn't want her, and God's not ready yet."
However, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? also shows the need for medical euthanasia. DNRs don't go far enough. Both parents lingered in pain and unconsciousness. Quality of life did not exist for them in those last days and weeks. It seemed unconscionably cruel to prolong their lives when they could no longer partake in life's joys, in even something as simple as communication, in all its forms.
Upon finishing my library copy I immediately bought myself one. The hardcover feels lovely to handle. It begs to be touched. If you're even a little bit intrigued by this book, read it. It's definitely worth reading....more
For the first time ever I like a Neil Gaiman novel. I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
It wasn't until I came across a Guardian article with the aboveFor the first time ever I like a Neil Gaiman novel. I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
It wasn't until I came across a Guardian article with the above image that I decided to give Gaiman a another chance. I mean, how bad could a feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty be? Besides, the library had a copy so only an investment of time would be required.
A post-curse Snow White is a warrior queen about to get married to a seemingly inferior and submissive man she does not love. When the dwarfs report that the Sleeping Beauty curse is spreading rapidly into Snow White's lands she jumps at the chance to leave and attempt to break it despite the many princes and knights who've died trying over the years.
It's only when she and the dwarfs arrive at the castle that Gaiman's story really sets itself apart from other fairy tales and their retellings. Zombie-like sleepwalkers bent on killing. An elderly (and tragic) lady guardian and a Sleeping Beauty who aren't what you expect. A chaste kiss between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to break the curse. And an ending which didn't feel quite right.
Instead of returning home, Snow White runs away from her royal responsibilities and her groom to travel with the dwarfs. Why not return home and refuse to marry? And abdicate the throne, if she really doesn't want to be queen? That takes more strength than running.
Everything I've read by Gaiman (his children's books) have received no more than two stars. Though he has intriguing ideas, his execution of them is poor, rarely gripping, and written in too few pages to do them justice. Bland characters I felt little for, one way or the other, is another common complaint. But yes, I had similar issues with The Sleeper and the Spindle. They weren't as pronounced this time. It's the unexpected and feminist twists that really sets this one apart. Black, white and gold illustrations were also positives I enjoyed. ...more
Be warned, Gaiman doesn't really rework Hansel andHaving liked The Sleeper and the Spindle, I assumed I'd enjoy another reworked fairy tale by him.
Be warned, Gaiman doesn't really rework Hansel and Gretel like he did with Sleeping Beauty, he just enlarges on it, adding minor changes along the way. Oddly I enjoyed this story more than any other by Gaiman, which probably tells you more about how much I like, or dislike, his work than anything else.
Lorenzo Mattotti's illustrations feel inappropriate for a children's book, in my opinion. They're 95% black brushstrokes with tiny bits of white. Since the cover of The Sleeper and the Spindlefeatured gold on the cover in addition to black and white, which were all present in the illustrations within, I assumed the green on Hansel & Gretel's cover would feature in the illustrations here as well. I was wrong. These are just black and white. Perhaps the illustrator was aiming for gothic, but when I can't even tell what a couple of them are supposed to be representing, there's a problem.
However, there's a random illustration which doesn't match the narrative. Only after reading the last two pages, which detail the source of the Grimm tale and a few paragraphs describing the original work, did I realise what had happened. Apparently a duck helped the duo cross the river in the original version and this is depicted in one of the illustrations. But Gaiman doesn't include the duck in his retelling. Did Hansel & Gretel even go through an editing stage?
Grimms' Hansel and Gretel was published in 1812. Twelve year old Dorothea Wild, known as Dortchen, was the source of the tale. She later became Mrs Wilhelm Grimm in 1825.
A hundred years before the Brothers Grimm, French author and fairy-tale collector Charles Perrault recorded "Le Petit Poucet," or "Hop-o'-My-Thumb." Hop-o'-My-Thumb, the smallest and cleverest of seven brothers, is also born to woodcutters who put the children out due to famine. Like Hansel, he uses trails of pebbles then breadcrumbs to find his way. The brothers stumble upon the house of an ogre who vows to kill and eat them, but Hop-o'-My-Thumb tricks him into slitting his daughters' throats instead (by swapping their caps). By the end of the story, "Hop-o'-My-Thumb." ends up with the ogre's money.
An Italian tale, "Nennillo and Nennella" is also similar. Then there's Russia's Baba Yaga who promises no to eat the children if they can complete impossible tasks. Kindness to the animals sees them help the children in completing the tasks in order to escape. Baba Yaga may have been inspired by in part by Cupid and Psyche's story in The Golden Ass written almost 2,000 years ago.
I want to award Gaiman's retelling a high rating, but it's not Gaiman's story. He hasn't made it his own like he did by adding a feminist twist to Sleeping Beauty. Sure, it's been reworded, and feels smoother and more eloquent for it, but there isn't any one thing I can definitively point to that sets it apart from the original. For me, the sometimes inarticulate illustrations detracted from the reading experience, as I sat there trying to figure out what exactly I was looking at. I felt they were incongruous and would've been better placed in art book or a gallery wall where I could've appreciated them more.
So I looked this one up online (and read it there for free) as I was struggling with the 13th volume which is a 2014 Hugo finalist for Best Graphic NoSo I looked this one up online (and read it there for free) as I was struggling with the 13th volume which is a 2014 Hugo finalist for Best Graphic Novel, and while this is from only one point of view - Agatha's - it's still a little disjointed and hard to follow. Almost every sentence of dialogue feels like it should end with a exclamation mark. It's high drama, or melodrama. But perhaps that's a mark of the mad science genre - I wouldn't know, I'm new to it.
Agatha is a strong female role model. She doesn't crumple in the face of adversity. I found the worldbuilding a little lacking and many questions are left unanswered by the end of the volume.
The artwork is nice though a little cartoon-y and Agatha's proportions seem a bit ludicrous for a teenager. She'd be more at home as a buxom barmaid wench in a tavern filled with randy vikings.
I love visual steampunk, on TV and in the movies, but can't get into it in novel form so I thought this would be good middle ground. Not this time....more
This is some fucked up shit. Misogynistic and necrophilic fucked up shit. With illustrations. My inner feminist is vibrating with rage and is drawingThis is some fucked up shit. Misogynistic and necrophilic fucked up shit. With illustrations. My inner feminist is vibrating with rage and is drawing disturbing comparisons with serial killer Elliot Rodger.
The meathouse is a whorehouse whose 'whores' are dead women, most of whom are former criminals and debtors although some have been kidnapped and killed precisely to be commodified by transforming them into brainless undead prostitutes. Outside of the meathouses, corpses are used as workers directed by handlers (read: puppeteers), similar to what The People do with vampires in Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series. The entertainment industry is dominated by corpse fights like the gladiators of old, their handlers manipulating them like 3-D real world video game characters.
Greg succumbs to peer pressure by patronising a meathouse where he falls in love with a coprse-whore and thus begins an obsession. The explicit artwork of this graphic novel makes it all the sicker. Necrophilic rape porn imagery is not something I want to see. And the illustrations aren't even good - it's quite grotesque actually, although that may be intentional.
Anyway, Greg decides he deserves better than an undead woman and proceeds to wait for a living, breathing woman. He meets one, he falls in love and she rejects him. He moves to another planet, meets a woman, falls in love, they're happy for a time, then she dumps him for his best friend. From here on out he hates women. Love is a cruel lie. He turns to the occupation he once shunned: gladiator-corpse handler. Turns out he's excellent at bloodily dismantling his opponents from the comfort of his 'throne' as the crowds cheer him on.
I know George R.R. Martin is a man who loves to write controversial storylines. A Song of Fire and Ice gets a pass in my eyes due to historical and cultural accuracy. Meathouse Man, on the other hand, is set in the distant future when man has colonized multiple planets. One would hope such pervasive and socially acceptable misogyny and disrespect for the dead would be but a distant memory by this time.
I'm shocked and disappointed that this is a 2014 Hugo Award Best Graphic Novel Nominee.
*Read for free via the LonCon3 Hugo Voter Pack....more
Unless you're a huge fan of Matt Smith as Doctor Who you won't enjoy The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, but then even if you are a fan I doubt this wouldUnless you're a huge fan of Matt Smith as Doctor Who you won't enjoy The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, but then even if you are a fan I doubt this would be a guaranteed 5-star wonder. And although Matt Smith looks like Matt Smith I didn't particularly like the illustrations.
I'll admit I've never been able to get into Doctor Who, I found it too cheesy for me and this fan made graphic novel didn't challenge my perceptions. It's reminiscent of a few episodes of TV show Supernatural as the characters come to terms with their lives serialized in books and a TV show, but Cornell's version isn't nearly as sophisticated as I'd expect it to be as a Hugo Awards finalist.
*2014 Hugo Award finalist for Best Graphic Novel read for free via the Hugo Voter Pack....more
Winston Churchill's black dog euphemism for depression is given form by author and illustrator Matthew Johnstone. He skillfully reveals his personal nWinston Churchill's black dog euphemism for depression is given form by author and illustrator Matthew Johnstone. He skillfully reveals his personal navigation through the seven hells of depression to the light at the end of the very long tunnel. As Churchill once said, "if you're going through hell, keep going." Johnstone sought treatment, told his family and friends and learned how to control the dreaded beast so he could finally enjoy life again.
While I do believe this picture book is accessible to all - including children - with its simple language and warm illustrations, its impact on me was . . . not what I expected. We're more informed and accepting of depression now than we were when I Had a Black Dog was first published in 2005. Ten years is a long time culturally. I know that had I read this back then, I'd be giving it a standing ovation for its accurate depiction of the most common mental illness.
The above page represents one of the aspects I struggled with for years. Every month, as part of my PMS symptoms, I suffered with cripplingly low self-esteem. Every memory from the minor slip ups to bigger mistakes I thought I'd made in my life would cycle through my mind. It was mental torture. Paranoia was one of the side effects, sometimes so terrible I had to leave work before I had a spectacular meltdown. Which leads on to The Fear.
The Fear that everyone will find out and judge you.
Because of the shame and stigma associated with Black Dog. I became a champion at fooling everyone, both at home and at work. Keeping up an emotional lie takes an incredible amount of energy. It's like trying to cover up epilepsy, a heart attach, or diabetes.
Although today we're more open and understanding about depression, there's still room for improvement.
To those who argue the 'black dog' isn't real, the foreword - written by a professor of clinical psychology and head of mental health for Derbyshire - explains the biological basis for the condition reflected in structural and chemical changes in the brain.
I'd definitely recommend I Had a Black Dog to everyone who wants to understand what it means to be depressed....more
Other than the seriously offensive smell of Hyperbole and Half's pages (I think it's all that colourful ink) and that odd yellow triangle on the top oOther than the seriously offensive smell of Hyperbole and Half's pages (I think it's all that colourful ink) and that odd yellow triangle on the top of Brosh's cartoon head (what is that, anyway? A hat, a blonde ponytail?), this is a self-aware blog-to-book memoir describing some of the absurdities and poignancy of everyday life.
My first encounter with Allie Brosh's blog of the same name was a few years ago when the glorious "God of Cake" went viral. I was reminded of an angry 8-year-old me wanting to get revenge on my mother. She wanted to go into town. I didn't. I said I needed the toilet. I sat there, and sat there, and sat there, making her wait. She knew what I was doing. After that day she was suspicious every time I emptied my bladder before leaving the house. My plan backfired while Brosh's succeeded.
What usually ends up happening is that I completely wear myself out [doing all my chores in one day]. Thinking that I've deserved it, I give myself permission to slack off for a while and recover. Since I've exceeded my capacity for responsibility in such a dramatic fashion, I end up needing to take more recovery time than usual. This is when the guilt spiral starts.
The longer I procrastinate on returning phone calls and emails, the more guilty I feel about it. The guilt I feel causes me to avoid the issue further, which only leads to more guilt and more procrastination. It gets to the point where I don't email someone for fear of reminding them that they emailed me and thus giving them a reason to be disappointed in me.
Everyone will have a story similar to "The Parrot". That toy that makes that annoying, repetitive noise which suddenly and mysteriously stops working, because your parents have removed the batteries before they experienced a mental breakdown.
Brosh's take on depression (Part One and Part Two) did an excellent job of explaining the pressures of acting 'normal'.
I'm no stranger to the inappropriate hysterical laughter that comes after something breaks inside, together with not having been genuinely amused for a long time, made me completely understand Brosh's episode over a single piece of corn found under the refrigerator. My toilet had overflowed, shit everywhere. Only a few days before, the kitchen had flooded with clean water. It was already a time of great stress, and this was that infamous final straw. I laughed and laughed.
...my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton.
But my cynicism wouldn't leave me.
Hating everything made all the positivity and hope feel even more unpalatable. The syrupy, over-simplified optimism started to feel almost offensive.
"Identity" Parts One and Two focuses on feeling bad for the uncensored and uncharitable thoughts we want no one to ever hear, and the need to feel like a better person than we actually are, hating when we're reminded of it by overachievers. We've all been there.
Duncan had a bad day . . . sort of looks like he might cry. Feel highly inconvenienced by this. Was planning to sit on couch and do nothing, but now obligated to pay attention to feelings of person I love. Ignore for a few seconds to see if it will go away on its own . . . Nope. Going to have to do something. Realize I'm an asshole. Feel even more inconvenienced by situation because I also wasn't planning on having to think about what an asshole I am. Momentarily overwhelmed by self-concern in middle of someone else's crisis. Somehow fight through self-centered haze long enough to provide adequate emotional support. Congratulate self for being so caring.
Although I enjoyed reading Hyperbole and a Half, I'm not sure if it's worth buying. It depends on your preferential type of humour and whether you're a dog lover who can enjoy the misadventures of Simple Dog and Helper Dog. Sampling a few of Brosh's blog posts would give you a feel for her style of writing, and if you're still unsure, just do what I did and borrow it from the library....more
Refreshingly not politically correct. Loved the comic strips which rendered perfectly well on my Kindle. I was most interested in the Scottish historyRefreshingly not politically correct. Loved the comic strips which rendered perfectly well on my Kindle. I was most interested in the Scottish history (e.g. Jacobite Rebellion) and the personal hygiene and fashion of the period. Had I still been a child I'm sure I'd have given this 5 stars. The only one I read and enjoyed back then was The Vile Victorians....more