Jimmy's Reviews > Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
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's review
Jul 10, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: female, graphic-based, poetic-essay, and-a-half-stars, year-2000s, memoir-ish
Recommended to Jimmy by: orianna

The 7 chapters in this graphic memoir feel less like she's telling you a story from beginning to end... and more like she's telling you the same story 7 times. But each time, she reveals a little bit more, either contextual, historical, or personal analysis. It's more of a graphic-personal-essay than a graphic-memoir, in that she is trying to work something out, trying to make some meaning out of her past by looking at it from several different angles. The point is not to tell a good story, the point is to wring some ounce of meaning out of it, and if she didn't do it so well, I would fault her for this. But she does it well, and it suits her OCD personality to hash and re-hash things, to build some kind of sense and meaning (even numbers except for multiples of 13!) out of what is seemingly meaningless.

One way she does this is to cast her family in the roles of literary characters, writers, and actors. Through the course of this book she draws parallels between herself/her family and the following: F Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Ulysses/The Odyssey, Icarus/Daedelus, Richard Nixon, The Adams Family, Jimmy Stewart & Family in It's A Wonderful Life, Camus, Catcher in the Rye, Colette, Proust, Robert Redford, some Henry James novel etc. etc. By the end you feel like she's probably way too smart for her own good. All this analogizing her life can't be good for her, this obsessive analysis borders on neurosis, and she knows it too: one of her many theories is that it is easier to live through fiction, or to access life through illusion/allusion than directly.

Anyway, the weaving of these threads together is done with such skill that it makes for a good read. And perhaps she did come away with it, after all of that, with some kind of insight. It definitely feels like insight by the end, but I'm not sure if it is, or if all it boils down to is just her trying to convince herself of what she wants to believe.

I was struck by the fact that I didn't like the father at all. And I felt like there weren't that many characters to really cling to in this book, except for the father and the narrator. But other than the father, the other characters fall back into bit parts, almost invisibly. And I wasn't sure if I was supposed to feel sympathy for the father, which is what seemed to be happening towards the end. I felt sympathy maybe for his situation, but I really didn't like him as a person (well, that sounds kinda weird... how about "as a person as portrayed in this book").

One last note: I wasn't really impressed by the art when I began, but it grew on me (mainly because of the story). She's definitely a much better thinker/writer than an artist. And the way she weaves the words with the pictures works really well sometimes without seeming too clever or innovative (which usually gets on my nerves).
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Oriana I was almost afraid to read your review, since I haven't done my own yet, and I didn't want to cheat and get any smart ideas from you. But I like your idea about the OCD retellings; I wouldn't have thought of that. I don't think I agree with you that her father was unlikeable, and I also think her mother was pretty cling-to-able, but really I'm not quite done digesting what I think yet.

Jimmy I also tend to stay away from book reviews until I've digested the reading experience for myself. It's hard enough keeping my own thoughts from being muddled up, the last thing I need is multiple voices! haha. Thanks for reading my review. I can't wait to read your thoughts on this one.

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