Meg Powers's Reviews > Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
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it was ok
bookshelves: comics, homozone, readin2010

Reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic put me in the same irritated and impatient mood experienced when reading Toni Morrison's The Song of Solomon in high school: both books feel like major wank-offs to the writers' cumulative reading endeavors. To put it in less crude terms, both books overflow with self-conscious references to classic literature (both use The Odyssey in a major way). However, this is not a review of The Song of Solomon, so I suppose I will set aside that grudge for now.

This is how I feel: any person, no matter how mediocre his/her life might be perceived, can be made into a great story. The key to this is good writing, and although Bechdel's writing is ORNAMENTAL, it's not engaging. She doesn't make me care about her, and I care only a little bit about her dad, whom the book focuses on. The constant literary references (Joyce, Camus, Proust, Wilde, etc) do not impress me and they do not enrich the story she is telling. Bechdel continuously draws parallels to anything and everything literary. Comparing the map in The Wind in the Willows to a map of her local terrain is one thing: comparing her first act of performing cunnilingus to entering Homer's cave of Polyphemus made me groan out loud. Bechdel also uses dictionary definitions as an ongoing motif, a cliche that ALWAYS annoys me ("'orgasm: or-gaz-um-' "what is an orgasm? what does it mean in the context of my own life? Let's examine this word and blah blah blah blah" <---bitchy paraphrasing).

I will say I have never been a fan of Dykes to Watch Out For or Alison Bechdel's drawing style in general (and my enjoyment of a comic, as is typical, is largely derived from the visual component) , so it is unfair to complain about that here;it's a matter of taste. However, if the facial expressions were rendered differently, and if Bechdel shook out the masturbatory references and word definitions, she might have sold me.

But no.
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Reading Progress

May 5, 2010 – Started Reading
May 5, 2010 – Shelved
May 5, 2010 – Shelved as: comics
May 5, 2010 – Finished Reading
July 13, 2010 – Shelved as: homozone
July 19, 2010 – Shelved as: readin2010

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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Rebecca Ann Exactly


Johanna Spot on!


Markeisha COULDN'T AGREE MORE! This book was terrible!


message 4: by Joy (new) - rated it 1 star

Joy Ratchkramer I read this book as part of my reasearch for my master's thesis on contemporary coming-of-age stories. People keep going on and on about how amazing this book is (it's Even On Broadway Now), but everything said here is spot-on. The subject matter COULD be interesting, but the book is just... badly written. I found it disappointing.


message 5: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy Yes, agreed - the ORNAMENTAL writing was cringeworthy


message 6: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy Yes, agreed - the ORNAMENTAL writing was cringeworthy


Anna (Bananas) Yes yes yes. So boring. Why does everyone love it?


Norman My sentiments exactly. It was boring and largely pointless for anyone not intimately connected with the Bechdel family, and in their case I can't imagine a positive reaction either. What was the point?


Lauren agreed.


Andrew Rahn I love "Song of Solomon". It's my favorite Toni Morrison book. I didn't think it was over written.


Woodstock Pickett I enjoyed FUN HOME, but I think you make some excellent comments and I appreciate you sharing them here. I have never read Proust, I know a little about Ulysses, enough that I was able to follow Bechdel's references. But as I read I often wondered - if a reader's past choices of what to read had left her/him ignorant of all of these asides, I can predict a book sailing through the air and hitting the wall. My reading experience might have been helped in that I saw the traveling stage production before I got to the top of the library holds list. Again, thanks for your comments


Hannah I found it to be like she was writing directly to me with her literary references and extended metaphors. I found them delightful, as the daughter of teachers and as a student of literature. I think it's important to note how important literature is to her father, because ultimately that's what she's doing, telling his story through her eyes and the lens through which he saw the world, which was books.


message 13: by Shelley (new)

Shelley I felt the book was okay, but definitely did not feel a connection to this novel nor the play. Heard good things but it just did not affect me. Also I was quite irked by the selling of a tragedy. Not everyone had all the same quirky bits, my dad wasn’t gay and didn’t die, but the family dynamics the coldness, the lack of communication, were how I and friends grew up.


message 14: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Powers Hannah wrote: "I found it to be like she was writing directly to me with her literary references and extended metaphors. I found them delightful, as the daughter of teachers and as a student of literature. I thin..."

It's important, but the way the references were handled were inelegant and klutzy to me. It was just too much.


message 15: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Powers Andrew wrote: "I love "Song of Solomon". It's my favorite Toni Morrison book. I didn't think it was over written."

I'd like to try re-reading it, but I think there's a point where a book can bonk you over the head with its allegories and comes off as trying to hard to be smart. I think it would have benefited from editing. But I think that's a kind of funny thing to respond to re: a review of Fun Home.
I mean, we're allowed to disagree! Most people love that book. Heck, most people love Fun Home!


message 16: by Caryn (new) - added it

Caryn I read the book about her mother first. If you didn’t like that one, DEFINITELY DON’T READ THIS ONE!


message 17: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg Powers Caryn wrote: "I read the book about her mother first. If you didn’t like that one, DEFINITELY DON’T READ THIS ONE!"

too late!!!

I came around to Bechdel a few years after writing this review. I enjoy Dykes to Watch Out For, and saw her give a talk about Are You My Mother, so I thought, eh, I'll give it a whirl. But, whoops, it's so much worse than Fun Home (which I re-read and still hate).

I think Bechdel's autobio inclinations work better channeled into DTWOF, where a context isn't presented in which she can gratuitously reference and quote.


Evangeline Dowling Yes! I'm going to finish it, but almost DNF'd it for the reasons you just shared. Thank you!


Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You love your omment that "... any life can be interesting if written well..." :)
and i find it tiresome when someone "famous" wants to tell me how literary they are... yeah, 'cuz you can't just use google to insert "smart" references...
ugh. also, not being starstruck or in any way believing "famous" people are any more intriguing than "regular" people, i just don't cae about her life. at all.


message 20: by Jj (new) - rated it 1 star

Jj Thank God. These were my exact sentiments. Stop talking about other people’s writing and just show us YOUR story already.


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