There's a amazing graphic novel to be found here somewhere. It's an interesting concept - long, long train, running on near-perpetual motion in a postThere's a amazing graphic novel to be found here somewhere. It's an interesting concept - long, long train, running on near-perpetual motion in a post-apocalyptic tundra - and some interesting if heavy handed social commentary. It could have been a fun, well-paced thriller set in a really distinctive context. It could have been a satisfying revolution story. Probably most interestingly, it could have been a fascinating psychological study.
But, it's not really any of those things.
Snowpiercer is fine, I guess - it gets a lot of mileage out of its central premise and setting, and its a very fast read, so you're unlikely to be bored by it. I liked it enough that I'll probably spend the two hours it'll take to read the sequel. But it's also just not very good, and it's hard to read it without spending most of your time thinking about all of the squandered potential.
The characters are almost unbelievably flat - it seems there was zero effort put into giving them any psychological weight or complexity - and the interesting premise is not really developed in any interesting or surprising ways. In theory, if there are many more of these to come, something interesting could develop out of it. But as a stand-alone story, it's very, very flimsy. ...more
To be a subject is an act of aggression. I put the odds on a psychic death match between Attila the Hun and Virginia Woolf at fifty-fifty.
Alison BechTo be a subject is an act of aggression. I put the odds on a psychic death match between Attila the Hun and Virginia Woolf at fifty-fifty.
Alison Bechdel and I have had very different lives. My father wasn't a gay professor who had affairs with his students. My mother was not a cool and distant actress. I am not a lesbian cartoonist.
Despite that, wow. I have rarely related to a person quite as much as I related to Alison Bechdel in this book (and in her memoir about her father, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic). The memoir dives in and out of themes - it's such a cliche to call something like this a tapestry, but it's genuinely what it feels like. Strands of ideas will disappear to percolate under the surface, only to pop up to the forefront in a different context. It's very brave and very honest, as you'd probably expect after Fun Home.
Are You My Mother dives much deeper into the realm of psychotherapy, particularly the work of Donald Winicott and his examination of the concept of self. Unlike other analysts (such as Freud) who subdivided the self into actors like the id or the ego, Winnicott favored a more coherent or cohesive view and argued that a clear and well-understood sense of self was key to a happy, mentally-healthy life. Feeling comfortable with one's "real" or "true" self allowed one to be happy, comfortable, emotional and loving. A lack of this - which Winnicott often attributed to low-level childhood trauma - created the "false" self. A baby who becomes too aware of his or her own powerlessness invests energy in putting up defenses; a baby who is calm and confident expresses emotions, and connects with themselves and the wider world.
I'm not sure how much value I actually put into much of the therapy - the dream analysis and more Freudian end of things did have me occasionally on the verge of rolling my eyes. But I think that's part of the point. Bechdel is brilliant and neurotic, and clearly is incapable of getting out of her own head. Thinking your way out of mental illness is almost impossible to avoid, but also nearly always mentally incapacitating. There's a reason the other star of this book is Virginia Woolf: a mentally ill woman who articulated her sense of self (as much as any of us can) through her art. It's an audacious move, and one that Bechdel clearly wants for herself. There are few things as tempting for creative depressives as the idea of writing oneself out of depression.
There is a lot here that I relate to, and on a couple of occasions I was almost unsettled by how incisively Bechdel could see behind my defenses. That said, this book will not be for everyone. I think a "therapy memoir" sounds fascinating, but I know that's not a universal opinion....more
Sometimes I like to imagine that floating around somewhere in the annals of Google Books there's a lost classic: a wonderful work that's been unfairlySometimes I like to imagine that floating around somewhere in the annals of Google Books there's a lost classic: a wonderful work that's been unfairly forgotten and is delightful despite the fact that no one remembers it anymore.