Fun Home
In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Fun Home Details

TitleFun Home
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 5th, 2007
PublisherMariner Books
ISBN0618871713
ISBN-139780618871711
Number of pages232 pages
Rating
GenreSequential Art, Graphic Novels, Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Comics, Glbt

Fun Home Review

  • Paul Bryant
    June 18, 2010
    THIS JUST IN : P BRYANT FAILS HIP GRAPHIC NOVEL TESTFun Home, a cripplingly hip graphic novel, is....Yes?It's....YES??Well, let's see, it's, you know, all right, good, yes, nods head, hummphs into beard, pulls earlobe, raises eyebrows, waves hands in a vague direction, shifts about in seat. You know. Don't get me wrong. It was good. Yes. Cool, clever, really hip, I mean, really, as far as I can tell, my hipometer needs a new battery I think; it was not the least bit funny, but that's not such a THIS JUST IN : P BRYANT FAILS HIP GRAPHIC NOVEL TESTFun Home, a cripplingly hip graphic novel, is....Yes?It's....YES??Well, let's see, it's, you know, all right, good, yes, nods head, hummphs into beard, pulls earlobe, raises eyebrows, waves hands in a vague direction, shifts about in seat. You know. Don't get me wrong. It was good. Yes. Cool, clever, really hip, I mean, really, as far as I can tell, my hipometer needs a new battery I think; it was not the least bit funny, but that's not such a bad thing, and...Stares at ceiling.Has sudden thought.Hey, you don't think Alison Bechdel will read this do you, she's not one of those Goodreads authors who suddenly jump up like a damned jack in a box and scare the jesus out of you and tell you they devoted five years of hard graft to this work you've just more or less sneered at and damned with the faintest possible praise, I really hope not, that's not happened to me yet but I know it's happened to a few of you and it's not pretty, some of you were mildly traumatised, I saw it with my own eyes, you had to be led away to a quiet good place with a small cat to stroke.So... Fun Room. It was all sweetly sad and worthy, painfully so, all about Alison's father who was this closet gay or bi living the whole of his life in a small Pennsylvanian town. So his temperament ran towards the dour and repressed and the sublimating-everything-into-his-house-restoration and then lo! shazam! Alison figures this out and also - double shazam! that she herself is gay, and then they become a lot closer and then stuff happens but not that much stuff. I wanted more stuff. I'm unreasonable.I read books for stuff, you know.
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  • Emily
    September 15, 2007
    Having never felt much inclination toward the graphic novel genre, I accepted a copy of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel on loan only because a coworker promised that I could finish it in one hour and forty minutes--almost precisely the amount of time it would take to travel from the office to my home in Connecticut, where I had plans to spend the weekend.One hour and fifty-five minutes later, when my mom pulled in her mini-van, I was close to the end, but not there yet. I'm a slow reader. But Fun Hom Having never felt much inclination toward the graphic novel genre, I accepted a copy of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel on loan only because a coworker promised that I could finish it in one hour and forty minutes--almost precisely the amount of time it would take to travel from the office to my home in Connecticut, where I had plans to spend the weekend.One hour and fifty-five minutes later, when my mom pulled in her mini-van, I was close to the end, but not there yet. I'm a slow reader. But Fun Home is also a book that demands patient, meticulous study. I examined every illustration, looking for the visual details that Alison, a cartoonist, has tucked in, here and there. Hidden like easter eggs, there are amusing details meant to be discovered on particularly grim pages. Alison can also make the most simplistic details - Road Runner on the TV; period cars; recurring appearances of the Sun Beam Bread logo - realistic, melancholy, and heartrending all at once.And the story itself, the misery and the humor of the characters, the events, and the time period, must be thoughtfully digested. The book is divided into seven chapters, each based on a different theme in the author's childhood and young adult life. Each one on its own could be a personal essay about overcoming an unusual hardship, but the episodes are tied together by recurring moments - the scene in which Alison learns her father's deepest darkest secret over the phone; the stack of literature on homosexuality that grows and grows on her nightstand in college; her father writing letters to her mother from his bunk during the war - and references to classic literature that are carefully, artfully implemented and never daunting.As a memoir, Fun Home is beautifully arranged and as honest and unapologetic as they come. Alison writes and draws as if she is still putting together the pieces as she does so, and closes the book with the impression that the story is not over. Which of course, it is not, since the author, her two brothers, and their mother, all survive the father they never had and then lost. Fun Home illustrates the fact that we never truly escape the legacies of our parents and never completely outgrow our childhood experiences. Alison wrote a note in the Advance Readers Edition, which I read, in which she notes: "the actual documentary truth [as recorded in diaries, letters, clippings and photographs from her childhood] was almost always richer and more surprising than the way [she] had remembered a particular event." In Fun Home, Alison does not just explore the far reaches of her memory. She revisits it as if seeing it all happen again, literally, graphically, for the first time.
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  • Meg Powers
    May 5, 2010
    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 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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  • Fabian
    October 25, 2016
    Works doubly as a hugely terrific autobiography & a megaengaging graphic novel. In FUN HOME, there is a tremendous longing to merge both of these Arts. The intent is always to make print as compelling as the pictorials they are made to convey. Astute, cheeky & enthralling, it brings together disparate themes like 'Wind in the Willows" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Catcher in the Rye", as well as A Chorus Line & Joyce's Ulysses: pretty much a choose your own literature ty Works doubly as a hugely terrific autobiography & a megaengaging graphic novel. In FUN HOME, there is a tremendous longing to merge both of these Arts. The intent is always to make print as compelling as the pictorials they are made to convey. Astute, cheeky & enthralling, it brings together disparate themes like 'Wind in the Willows" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Catcher in the Rye", as well as A Chorus Line & Joyce's Ulysses: pretty much a choose your own literature type adventure that possibly every single reader of this flawless book could relate to.Ten dollars to you if the last page/frame of this doesn't make you B.O.L.*PS: We are watching the musical this January! Oh blessed New Year!*(Bawl Out Loud)
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  • Natalie
    January 8, 2017
    This graphic memoir has been on my to read list for what feels like ages, so I felt entirely satisfied when I completed reading it.In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A f This graphic memoir has been on my to read list for what feels like ages, so I felt entirely satisfied when I completed reading it.In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.In the end, I was compelled to pick up Fun Home completely on a whim. Though I flew through it, a lot of the literary references went shamefully over my head. And considering that it was such a big focus here, I was left out of the loop a lot, which ended up lowering my enjoyment while reading.Also, I was made entirely uncomfortable with her father and his violent tendencies towards his family, his preying on young boys, and his overall behavior towards the naïve.I did like how something that Alison Bechdel mentioned in the first half would then get completed in the second half. And I learned quite a lot about funerals, which I was not expecting going into this. Also, Bechdel taking the time to discuss her OCD was crucial and enlightening.On that note, here are some other parts I enjoyed: When their grandma told the tale of how Bruce Bechdel got stuck in the mud, I was just as compelled as the kids. I wanted to know more. I LOVE hearing about dreams. Ever since I read the above exchange, it's been on my mind constantly. I'm curious to see what her next graphic novel Are You My Mother? entails.*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying Fun Home, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!* This review and more can be found on my blog.
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  • Samadrita
    September 21, 2014
    3.5/5Fun Home's biggest flaw is its self-conscious, droll narrative voice that diminishes its raw earnestness at times. Alison Bechdel imposes her obsessive-compulsive desire for extracting meaning from even the most commonplace of occurrences on to a narrative of coming to terms with personal loss. And this whole exercize of drawing parallels between fictional and real life tragedies and pivotal emotional beats becomes too trite all too soon. Maybe she should have known when to put the kibosh o 3.5/5Fun Home's biggest flaw is its self-conscious, droll narrative voice that diminishes its raw earnestness at times. Alison Bechdel imposes her obsessive-compulsive desire for extracting meaning from even the most commonplace of occurrences on to a narrative of coming to terms with personal loss. And this whole exercize of drawing parallels between fictional and real life tragedies and pivotal emotional beats becomes too trite all too soon. Maybe she should have known when to put the kibosh on this thing.But it's okay. Since I understand wherefrom this monomaniacal urge originates. It's hard to make sense of a father's death especially at an age when you were only just learning how to peel off layers of pretensions obfuscating the unadulterated reality that lay at the core of his personhood. It's not so much a crushing sadness that hits you but an overwhelming disbelief and a sense of 'it's not fair' which becomes so large and potent a force that it pushes out all concomitant emotions of bereavement from your mind leaving a kind of vacuum. Before my to psychobabble gets the better of my good sense, let me come clean about my personal reasons for rating this work as high as 3.5 stars. Greater than the sum of my annoyance at Bechdel's rather shabby artwork (at times I couldn't tell the difference between Bruce Bechdel and Alison's brothers) and her tendency to forge correlations between Proust, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Colette, Henry James, Wilde's fictional characters and snippets of memorable moments from her dysfunctional childhood spent in a rural Pennsylvania homestead, was my genuine appreciation for this heartfelt tribute to such a delightfully ambiguous father. Having lost a father at 14, I know how it feels trying to grasp at straws, trying to analyze one seemingly inconsequential incident or subjecting one precious shared moment to intense and concentrated scrutiny from all possible angles. Stray notes tucked in between the last page and the backcover of a magazine recovered years later, journals, hand-written letters, favorite paperbacks, the only bit of literary criticism he published, heaps of carefully organized notes that he prepared for his classes, tapes containing his voice recordings cooing at your tiny baby form and anecdotes recounted by the ones who knew him better and longer than you did become coded roadsigns to some secret location promising complete de-mystification. But you know it's just delusional thinking anyway. You will never know him the way you could have.Unlike Bruce Bechdel who grappled with the stark contradiction between his public reality and private urges all his life, my father didn't particularly have any skeletons in his closet. And even if he did I have no way of unraveling that mystery now. But what I do have in common with Bechdel's perspective on her father, is this perplexity, subliminal resentment and an amused incredulity about his life and his deeds. How can he be just a person existing in the past tense now? At least she must have achieved some kind of closure through the creation of this part graphic memoir part literary essay on remembering a loved one. I certainly hope she did.My rating and review are thus reprehensibly subjective. Do not expect more from a reviewer who has massive daddy issues and will continue to deal with them till the day she breathes her last. I solemnly confess to being more moved by the parts focusing on her family rather than the Künstlerroman-ish bits about her 'coming out' in college and identifying as a butch woman. But what stopped me from rating this any higher is the painfully overwrought sentence construction Bechdel employs which aside from being cringe-worthy at times creates an unwanted dissonance between the import of an emotional moment and its actual graphical representation and execution. I would see my father one more time after this. But we would never discuss our shared predilection again. I'm sorry Ms Bechdel but if this is your attempt at cracking a joke on the likelihood of your gay self having a conversation with your gay dad about well being gay, it's kind of pathetic.
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  • Patrick
    January 3, 2014
    I've known about Bechdel for some time, but I've never gotten around to reading any of her work. Odds are, you know about her too, even if you're not aware of it. She's the one that invented the appropriately-named Bechdel Test for movies.If you don't know about the test, it bears talking about. It's almost like a checklist: 1. Does the movie have two female characters in it? 2. Do the two female characters have at least one conversation? 3. Does at least one of their conversations concentrate o I've known about Bechdel for some time, but I've never gotten around to reading any of her work. Odds are, you know about her too, even if you're not aware of it. She's the one that invented the appropriately-named Bechdel Test for movies.If you don't know about the test, it bears talking about. It's almost like a checklist: 1. Does the movie have two female characters in it? 2. Do the two female characters have at least one conversation? 3. Does at least one of their conversations concentrate on something other than a man? If the answer to any of these is "no" you fail the test. To me, the truly interesting thing about this test isn't how many movies utterly fail it. It's that when you're first exposed to the test, you're forced to confront how fucked up the gender bias in almost all media is. Anyway, I picked up the comic because I was curious what her writing was like. And because it's odd to see a graphic novel that's won so much literary attention. (This book has a *ton* of awards and accolades.) Did I like it? Yes. It's cleverly written. Very earnest and heartfelt. It's fascinating. Did I *lurve* it? No. I admire the craft in the book. It was emotionally engaging without being maudlin. It was artfully constructed. It shared an experience with me that I never would have gained anywhere else. I'd happily recommend it to a lot of my friends. But for me, that's where it stops. Enjoyment and admiration of the craft. This book is a wonderful example of: "Great books that are not perfectly targeted for me." Now don't get me wrong. It was fascinating. Books I whole-heartedly enjoy and admire are still in the top 5%. But what really rings the bell that hangs in your heart is mostly a matter of flavor, and this one wasn't quite suited to me. Is it worth your time? Yes. That said, you're more likely to enjoy it if you're a recovering English major. Or if you're a fan of queer culture, autobiographical fiction, or non-superhero graphic novels.
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  • Darth J
    September 21, 2015
    Hmmm...Well, I wanted to read this for some time, mostly because Alison Bechdel is probably one of the more prominent names that both authors and readers are aware of these days due to her test. Anyway, I wanted to like this more than I did. You see, I'm not really a fan of graphic novels, but it worked here to illustrate her points. However, this whole book felt more like a project of self-analysis than a commercial product. It was extremely personal, yet cold and detached--like Alison's parent Hmmm...Well, I wanted to read this for some time, mostly because Alison Bechdel is probably one of the more prominent names that both authors and readers are aware of these days due to her test. Anyway, I wanted to like this more than I did. You see, I'm not really a fan of graphic novels, but it worked here to illustrate her points. However, this whole book felt more like a project of self-analysis than a commercial product. It was extremely personal, yet cold and detached--like Alison's parents, which I think is the entire point.3 stars overall because there was something there, but that just wasn't entertainment.
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  • Frankie
    February 16, 2017
    So dark & so honest. I loved it.
  • Oriana
    July 21, 2010
    Book #4 for Jugs & Capes, my all-girl graphic-novel book club! You can also read this review (slightly tweaked) on CCLaP.***I've been wanting to read this book for years. Isn't it crazy that I had to start an entire graphic novel book club to somehow give myself permission to read it? Perhaps. But who cares about the machinations I forced myself through to get to it? I am so glad I did. This book is simply spectacular. It is dense, fraught with meaning, stuffed with prose and complimented by Book #4 for Jugs & Capes, my all-girl graphic-novel book club! You can also read this review (slightly tweaked) on CCLaP.***I've been wanting to read this book for years. Isn't it crazy that I had to start an entire graphic novel book club to somehow give myself permission to read it? Perhaps. But who cares about the machinations I forced myself through to get to it? I am so glad I did. This book is simply spectacular. It is dense, fraught with meaning, stuffed with prose and complimented by simple illustrations. And in addition to being incredibly smart, incredibly illuminating, and incredibly inventive, it's also incredibly sexy. There's a scene where Alison and her girlfriend are in bed together making out, while reading the dictionary. Sexy nerdery! Incredible! In case anyone doesn't know, Fun Home is a memoir about Alison Bechdel's childhood and early adulthood. She has two younger brothers, an actress mother, and a father who teaches high-school English and runs a funeral home. Yeah. Oh, and dad's a deeply closeted gay. I'd like, as I always do with well-done memoirs, to invoke one of the blurbs on my favorite-ever memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City : Finally, someone with a life worth writing about has got the skill to write about it. Oh, Alison, what skill! What a life! What a uniquely wonderful way of telling it!The book has seven chapters, each of which is structured around a book. And I'm not talking about lowbrow or predictably canonized books, either; we've got Icarus and Dedalus, Camus's A Happy Death, The Great Gatsby, Proust, The Wind in the Willows, Henry James, and Ulysses. Holy moly, Alison is one smart cookie. She shrewdly and exhaustively catalogues and examines the parallels between these disparate works and the structure and choices and emotional makeup of her family, enhancing an already fascinating story with layers of intertextual readings and adept analysis. She says: "I employ these allusions to James and Fitzgerald not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms. And perhaps my cool aesthetic distance itself does more to convey the arctic climate of our family than any particular literary comparison." That makes me shiver.Her language made me shiver a lot, actually, which is not something I expect from a graphic novel. (But let me reiterate that I've read probably less than a dozen graphic novels in my adult life, so excuse me if that's a stupid assumption.) Her prose is complex, lyrical, intelligent, and apt. She describes a summer afternoon in Greenwich Village by saying, "the city was reduced, like a long-simmering demiglace, to a fragrance of stunning richness and complexity." In a section which covers her own puberty as it coincides with a cicada summer, she says, "Next the locusts settled down to an orgy in our tall maple trees, cloaking us from dawn to dusk in the ambient noise of their conjugal exertions." In the chapter about her own journey of coming out as a lesbian (which is also the Ulysses chapter), she says, "I was adrift on the high seas, but my course was becoming clear. It lay between the scylla of my peers and the swirling, sucking charybdis of my family." Beautiful.And I haven't even gotten to the art yet. I'm still working out how I relate to graphic novels, and it turns out I'm both too harsh a judge and also too easy. It takes little to impress me artistically—much less than it takes to impress me literarily, for sure—and so I find almost any art to be good. On the other hand, though, when I read graphic novels, I can't stop wondering why the author chose this format to tell his or her story, which is certainly not something I ever stop to consider with straight prose. Due to this, I actually find myself a little bit distracted, over-examining many of the frames in order to try to parse just why this story needed illustrating. I did that a lot in this book too, and while I didn't come to a clear answer, I did find many frames that were not just augmented, but wholly changed, for the better of course, by the compliment of the illustration. For example, there's a half-page frame at the end of a chapter that shows Alison visiting her father's grave. With a short phrase of text that only harkens back to an anecdote related earlier in the chapter, the reader is free to attach all the end-of-chapter meaning to this large image, which is the graveyard, at twilight (probably; the shadows are long), empty but for Alison lying on her back in front of her father's monument, her bike on its side next to her. This is such a beautiful, aching image! And she didn't have to bother spelling out her loneliness, her puzzlement, the hours she spent in silent communion with her dead father. It's all there, exquisitely bare. Or in another image, full page, she compares a picture of her father at twenty-two to a picture of herself at twenty-one. In this one she does use words to enumerate certain similarities—pained grin, flexible wrists, angle of shadow on faces—but still the illustrations augment these bare-bones descriptions brilliantly. One last example: as she discusses the artifice in her childhood diary (she has written, "We might have to move! How horrid!"), the text reads, "How horrid has a slightly facetious tone that strikes me a Wildean. It appears to embrace the actual horror—puberty, public disgrace—then at the last second nimbly sidesteps it, laughing." The illustration here? Alison and her father watching, on TV, the Roadrunner eat the "free birdseed" and then speed away just before the anvil comes crashing down on his head. So there's the wry literary analysis of herself as an over-dramatic teen, the sharply augmenting pop-culture parallel, and then also the overlay of she and her father laughing together, in a rare moment of closeness. What a terrific, multi-layered whole!There's so much left that I didn't talk about yet, but I suppose it won't do any good to say much more. This book is an absolutely astonishing delight, and if I haven't convinced you of that yet, I'm not going to bother trying anymore.
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  • Ted
    May 4, 2012
    UpdatedThis is a terrific book. The graphic memoir format added an extraordinary dimension to the story. (I can't recall ever having read a graphic novel before, so in that sense the entire experience of this book was new to me.)The book was published when Bechdel was in her mid-40s, and tells the story of her own life, up to just before her twentieth birthday, and her father’s life, up to the same point in time, when he was run over by a truck - possibly accidentally, possibly as a suicide.Som UpdatedThis is a terrific book. The graphic memoir format added an extraordinary dimension to the story. (I can't recall ever having read a graphic novel before, so in that sense the entire experience of this book was new to me.)The book was published when Bechdel was in her mid-40s, and tells the story of her own life, up to just before her twentieth birthday, and her father’s life, up to the same point in time, when he was run over by a truck - possibly accidentally, possibly as a suicide.Some of the things I will remember about the book, in no particular order:1. You-couldn’t make this up. In the last few months of her father’s life, Alison had revealed to her parents (after going away to college) that she was a lesbian; soon after that she learned that her father was gay, and had been in trouble with the law in the small community in which they lived in Western Pennsylvania for an incident which had been swept under the table by the legal system in return for his agreement to accept counseling. Alison had been under the impression that he had been in trouble for buying beer for a minor, which was the charge that had been actually brought against him. Alison also learned that her mother had been aware of her dad’s tendencies for several years, and two weeks before her father’s demise had filed for divorce from him.2. Non-linear, recursive structure. The way in which Bechdel retells, in each chapter of the book, with continually increasing detail, shifting themes, and changing perspectives, the story of her relationship with her father, and the way in which she learned more about the events preceding his death.3. Great use of graphics. The book contains probably a thousand illustrations, many of them extremely detailed. Various bits of the story are told by the captions, by separate text boxes (such as quotations from some of her dad’s favorite books, with significant words and phrases highlighted), by the dialog balloons, and by special little notes within illustrations pointing out visual details significant to Alison’s perception of her surroundings. Here's an example, showing Allison in a lit. course at college. (click to expand)which ties in with ...4. Literary references. Bechdel weaves her dad’s favorite books and authors (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Proust, Joyce) into the story, and uses her own explications of this literature to make key points about his personality and his outlook on life.5. Honesty. Bechdel doesn’t hold anything back in telling this story, and thus makes a special point of thanking her two brothers and her mother “for not trying to stop me from writing this book.”and how did I overlook, when I first wrote this ...6. Emotion. There is some powerful emotion packed into Bechdel's story. As I flipped through the book looking for a good panel to illustrate the review, I perused the last few pages. When I finished, I was sobbing. So ...I'm looking forward to reading Bechdel’s newest graphic book, Are You My Mother, the story of her relationship with her mother. Though I still haven't read it. It sits there waiting for me.
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  • Sara
    April 27, 2008
    I went out and bought this book immediately after hearing a paper on it at a recent conference. The paper had to do with narrative strategies that children use for uncovering and witnessing their parents' trauma -- in this book, the narrator Allison tries to piece together her father's life into a narrative she wants to read as that of a closeted gay man. In the narrator's logic, her coming out of the closet prompted her father's suicide four months later. After a life of secret affairs and sedu I went out and bought this book immediately after hearing a paper on it at a recent conference. The paper had to do with narrative strategies that children use for uncovering and witnessing their parents' trauma -- in this book, the narrator Allison tries to piece together her father's life into a narrative she wants to read as that of a closeted gay man. In the narrator's logic, her coming out of the closet prompted her father's suicide four months later. After a life of secret affairs and seduction of teenage boys, her father -- according to her narrative -- couldn't face having missed out on -- or chasing after -- the freedom that was now available to her as a post-Stonewall gay woman. But it's not clear how much credit we are to give to this narration, and how much the point of the narrative is to expose its own tenuousness. Her father's death was ruled an accident -- he stumbled into oncoming traffic while clearing a lot. Even if the death was willed, the narrator herself provides plenty of evidence for other constructions of what could have caused the suicide. A man whose rage for order verged on Mommy Dearest, the father clearly suffered from a mood disorder, narcissism, and even a tendency to kleptomania -- none of which are endemic to homosexuality, even of the closeted sort. The man was unpleasant, clearly disturbed and distraught by his wife's recent request for a divorce.Thus the the narrator's attempt to integrate his death into the story of her coming out is as much a story about how badly she wants to be connected to him, as it is about any objective explanation of his life and death. Every episode she recounts is layered to the point of being overburdened with symbolism -- the summer her father gets into trouble with the law for seducing a teenage boy is also the summer her mother has the lead in an Oscar Wilde play -- and also the summer Allison gets her period. And also the summer that the Watergate scandal is exposed. This surplus of symbolic baggage is further compromised by the narrator's accounts her own childhood attempts to keep a diary -- which she marked up with the annotations "I think" "I think" "I think" to ward off the dangers of claiming as objective what was only her point of view. As much as she tells us about her father, the narrator tells us even more about why we should be sceptical of what she's telling us. And maybe what's most fascinating about her attempts to identify her homosexuality to her father's sexual life is all of the possible identifications she has to shut down to get there. Identifying with her father means she doesn't have to identify with the teenage boys he exploited, placing his desires before their autonomy. Naming her coming out of the closet as the catalyst for her father's death removes blame from her mother, whose request for divorce might otherwise provide a suicide motive. At the same time it erases the possibility that coming out of the closet prompted her mother to ask for the divorce, moved to escape a sham marriage by her own daughter's unwillingness to play along with convention. The narrator's musings that if her father had chosen in the early 80s not suicide but life as a gay man, he probably would have ended up dead of AIDS anyway acts a safety valve, a way of keeping her identification with her father from becoming too all-consuming. The father who controlled the decor of her bedroom, the clothes she wore, the books she read could just as easily have moved in and decided to inhabit and use even her homosexuality as an extension of himself if he hadn't died first. Her dependence in the last few chapters of the novel on Proust, Joyce and Collette to explain her relationship with her father seem a distancing move, so that she might understand her identification with her father as an identification with any character in a book -- intense, but not impinging in one's daily life.The potential destruction the father could have worked on the daughter by living might be read in the baroque level of detail this graphic novel has, despite being authored and illustrated by a self-professed modern minimalist. Instead of spare lines and empty spaces Allison Bechdel fills her book with the gingerbread latticing, velvet flocked wall-paper and intricately carved bannisters of her father's pretentious Victorian tastes.
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  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    September 30, 2016
    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ Confession time: The only reason I read Fun Home was because it was on the list of most challenged or banned books last year, I had already read more than half of the others on the list and there was a snowball’s chance in hell I’d opt to read The Bible for pleasure.I had also never heard of Alison Bechdel prior to snatching this one up from the library display (such a badass, right????) and had to Google “The Bechdel Test” to find ou Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ Confession time: The only reason I read Fun Home was because it was on the list of most challenged or banned books last year, I had already read more than half of the others on the list and there was a snowball’s chance in hell I’d opt to read The Bible for pleasure.I had also never heard of Alison Bechdel prior to snatching this one up from the library display (such a badass, right????) and had to Google “The Bechdel Test” to find out WTF it was. And after doing so????? Yowza. (And please note the irony of my first Bechdel experience being ALLLLLLLLLL about her father – A MAN.)I’m also someone who can’t help but question the level of narcissism required for a fairly non-famous person (on the scale from obscurity to Kardashian) to think their life story is that which others would want to read. Thus was the case when I was reading this. If you are a bibliophile there is a chance you will get wrapped up in the name dropping of Fitzgerald and Joyce and Hemingway and Salinger, but if you are a not-so-bright schmuck like myself (or especially this week maybe a teenager attempting to push the envelope by reading something that has been challenged), you might find your reaction to be more along these lines . . . .
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  • Nandakishore Varma
    April 30, 2015
    Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is the third comic I have read which is meant exclusively for adults (after The Complete Persepolis and Maus, I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History & Maus, II: And Here My Troubles Began). I must say that out of the three, this one is the most brilliantly drawn and narrated. The three stars are a personal thing.Alison is a lesbian. This book is an attempt on her part to come to terms with the fact that her father was gay, and possibly a paedophile, somethin Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is the third comic I have read which is meant exclusively for adults (after The Complete Persepolis and Maus, I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History & Maus, II: And Here My Troubles Began). I must say that out of the three, this one is the most brilliantly drawn and narrated. The three stars are a personal thing.Alison is a lesbian. This book is an attempt on her part to come to terms with the fact that her father was gay, and possibly a paedophile, something which she could not discuss with him properly before he died in an accident (hit by a truck while crossing the road) at the age of forty-four. Alison shares a bond with her father because of their shared "queer"-ness; perhaps the only bond, as their home was never properly a home, just a bunch of people living together in a domicile with no emotional connection.Ms. Bechdel's father was an English teacher and a renovator and decorator of houses. His obsessive attachment to objects can be seen as an attempt to distance himself emotionally from his family - it may be that he was ashamed of his sexual preferences: a member of his generation could not "come out" in the way Alison could (and did). However, he connects to Alison through a shared and obsessive love of the written word.Mr. Bechdel's death might have been a suicide - his daughter fantasises it may be, through the fact that a divorce was imminent and the books he was reading just before his death and the literary "clues" he left lying about pointed to the same(Camus' A Happy Death, for example). In fact, this whole book is an attempt by the author to explain her troubled relationship with her family and society in general through epoch-making novels - mainly The Great Gatsby, In Search of Lost Time and Ulysses.The "Fun Home" of the title is a funeral parlour Mr. Bechdel inherited from his parents: a building filled with cadavers and caskets, where the human body becomes just a lump of flesh to be laid out on a slab and carved (one graphic sequence involving Alison her father and a naked corpse is very powerful). This also becomes a metaphor for Alson's home as the story progresses: only here, it is the souls which are given such cavalier treatment.Alison Bechdel's art and narrative are fantastic, with layer upon layer of meaning rarely seen in a comic book. The interspersion of literary passages, historical and geographical allusions and personal memoirs is done with consummate mastery, so that the main theme of the book is always in the limelight. And the panels are drawn with a lot of thought given to the exact layout so that the pictures enhance the flow of the narrative seamlessly.But I somehow could not connect with the story or the characters: maybe because of my sexual preferences, I could not empathise with the protagonist or her concerns. Like I said in the beginning, the three stars are a personal thing.Warning: the book contains some graphic sexual material.
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  • Kaion
    September 24, 2011
    Honestly, I have no idea why this is considered such a classic of graphic memoirs. I'm not an expert on this form, and feel self-conscious critiquing graphic literature because of this, but let's work through this.Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic details growing in a cold home where all the occupants isolated themselves in artistic pursuit. Alison Bechdel (of the Bechdel test) particularly focuses on her relationship with her closeted father, who killed himself soon after she came out as a lesbian Honestly, I have no idea why this is considered such a classic of graphic memoirs. I'm not an expert on this form, and feel self-conscious critiquing graphic literature because of this, but let's work through this.Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic details growing in a cold home where all the occupants isolated themselves in artistic pursuit. Alison Bechdel (of the Bechdel test) particularly focuses on her relationship with her closeted father, who killed himself soon after she came out as a lesbian in college.Even without considering the graphic element, the writing is labored verging on tortured. The narration consists of endless confused comparisons of her family's situation to classic literature. I don't object to allusions when they are deployed to refine the writer's own vision of the narrative. But Bechdel's dependence on literary allusions don't feel like attempts to illuminate -- they obscure; they waffle about for a few pages a time before being replaced about by other thin allusions.In fact, as the narrative proceeds in fits and stops and weaves and jumps rather haphazardly, it most frequently seems even Bechdel herself hasn't a clue where she's going with this.Furthermore, the art of Fun Home is drab and uninteresting. Certainly I never mistake people's hands for kitchen implements, but nor does it move beyond serviceable.Her character designs fail at being distinctive; identifying even Alison herself at various different ages in the story is a struggle. Bechdel's use of paneling and pacing is monotonous and unimaginative. The same thirds layout appears again and again (three horizontal panels, divided by text, the middle panel further divided vertically into two pictures). She eschews texture, and almost exclusively uses a light-grey tone out of the range of black and white. Her compositions similarly fail to employ white or negative space, and the final product feels impossibly bland.Singularly, the writing and the art are mostly dull, but combined, they make a potent combination of bad. There's almost no interplay between the two; dialogue is limited at best, superfluous at worst. Instead, they work at cross purposes: text boxes of elaborately overworked SAT-bonus narration crowd out crude bland drawings. It's a clashing glaring mismatch that only increases the confusion of reading Fun Home, the biggest confusion being why it's in the format of a graphic novel at all. Rating: 1 star
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  • Jessica
    September 26, 2007
    I wonder pretty often what the point of writing books is, mostly because, well, you know, there are already so many of them...More narrowly, I think I kind of understand why people feel compelled to write memoirs, but I do wonder -- as I remain stalled out on page 236 of Martin Amis's Experience -- why anyone ever reads them.Fun Home answers both of these questions for me, plus a third larger one about what the point is of being alive. It seems like sort of a confusing and overwhelming waste som I wonder pretty often what the point of writing books is, mostly because, well, you know, there are already so many of them...More narrowly, I think I kind of understand why people feel compelled to write memoirs, but I do wonder -- as I remain stalled out on page 236 of Martin Amis's Experience -- why anyone ever reads them.Fun Home answers both of these questions for me, plus a third larger one about what the point is of being alive. It seems like sort of a confusing and overwhelming waste sometimes, doesn't it? All the complexity and pain and even the great gorgeous moments in a life, because what's it all for, what's its purpose...? Can any sense or use ever be made of it really?A: Yup!I've been meaning to read this since it came out six years ago, and just finally got around to it. Fun Home blew my mind in that way that makes me want to devolve to swooningly banal reviewspeak and pronounce it a "stunning achievement."Fun Home is a Stunning Achievement. I feel like I don't need to describe it because pretty much everyone else on the planet has read it by now, but in case you somehow didn't, it's a memoir written in comic form focusing primarily on Bechdel's relationship with her father, who probably (but not definitely) killed himself, following decades of small-town life as a passionate house restorer/English teacher/funeral home proprietor/tormented closet case, shortly after his daughter's announcement that she was gay. In the book, Bechdel analyzes her memories, experiences and extant documents, and uses literature to try to understand her father and tell a story about her family and about herself.The result was so engaging and so just, well this is dumb, but meaningful that I'm really at a loss for anything unstupid to say. While reading this, I kept thinking that I was glad in a way that a lot of these things happened, that these people were who they were, because that's what led to this book being made and I was so happy to read it. From the opening pages I was so overwhelmed by her drawings and descriptions of her family's house that the book seemed almost magical to me for containing them -- sort of like, without this book, what would have been the point of that house, what would have been the point of this time period, of all these people? They all just would've come and gone, and been known by such a small number of individuals who would've eventually forgotten them. There is some process of retrieval at work here that grants these lost settings and people and events some existence that feels so vital -- it's like Proust, one of the literary references she explores, how she goes back in time to collect them -- that it's actually kind of transcendent. I'm not explaining it clearly at all, but this process is what I think art's for: making something out of the world that grants that world some extra sense or meaning beyond itself.Though man... Faulkner wrote that "If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies," but I bet Faulkner never knew an autobiographical comic book artist! If he had, she probably would've made him blush and stammer a bit, but I'm sure in the end he would've stood by his statement. If I were in Bechdel's family, I might've gotten pretty pissed about this, though I like to imagine I'd be consoled by the incredible value of the product to which my privacy had been sacrificed.Anyway, yeah. Not much of a review but hopefully my enthusiasm's come across. While in theory I know not everyone would love this book nearly as much as I did, I'd still unreservedly recommend it to pretty much anyone.
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  • Cristina Leitón
    January 24, 2016
    Mi primera lectura de novela gráfica no podía haber sido mejor. Cuando Jennifer (una de las libreras de la Come In, en Barcelona) me recomendó empezar con Fun Home y lo hizo con tanta emoción, no pude resistirme a llevármelo a casa conmigo. Y lo empecé, y seguí leyendo, y fijándome en cada detalle de cada página mientras me dejaba envolver por la vida de Alison Bechdel, su relación con su padre y una infancia dolorosa con algunos momentos felices.Fun Home trata temas como la homosexualidad, la i Mi primera lectura de novela gráfica no podía haber sido mejor. Cuando Jennifer (una de las libreras de la Come In, en Barcelona) me recomendó empezar con Fun Home y lo hizo con tanta emoción, no pude resistirme a llevármelo a casa conmigo. Y lo empecé, y seguí leyendo, y fijándome en cada detalle de cada página mientras me dejaba envolver por la vida de Alison Bechdel, su relación con su padre y una infancia dolorosa con algunos momentos felices.Fun Home trata temas como la homosexualidad, la identidad, la literatura, las relaciones familiares y el hacerse mayor; la vida, básicamente, desde el punto de vista de una niña que creció en una casa funeraria con unos padres distantes y muchos secretos escondidos en cada esquina. Pero lo que me ha sorprendido es el tono: no se hace dramático en ningún momento, sino que la propia voz y los dibujos (¿ilustraciones? No estoy acostumbrada a hablar de novelas gráficas) nos van llevando por la historia, volviendo al pasado y a los mismos momentos una y otra vez, aunque cada vez que se vuelve a ellos se saben más cosas y los vemos de manera diferente, de la misma manera que lo hace Alison al volver atrás y darse cuenta de lo diferentes que eran las cosas.Cada parte se centra en un autor, los favoritos del padre de Alison, y a través de ellos vamos conociendo más a ese hombre que parece encontrar su refugio en su biblioteca. Es más: parece ser que Alison y su padre se comunicaban mejor a través de la literatura, como si fuera una excusa para conectar como padre e hija.Escribiría sin parar y me seguiría dejando cosas. Creo que nunca olvidaré la experiencia que ha sido leer Fun Home, y seguramente vuelva a ella una y otra vez. Menudo descubrimiento, y cuántas ganas de seguir leyendo a esta autora. He conectado de una manera muy especial con su historia y su manera de contarla, así que a partir de ahora no pienso perderla de vista.
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  • Earline
    December 21, 2007
    just insert "Fun Home" in place of "House of Leaves" in Mickey's review:This book looks at you with this smug fucking smile on it's face, daring you to say that you don't like it, knowing that masses of people are going to go along with it because they don't want to look stupid. That's what this is. It's the fucking Radiohead of books. Well, House of Leaves, I am not stupid and I'm calling your bullshit. Fuck you
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  • Aubrey
    December 28, 2010
    I could dislike this if I really put my mind to it, but acting out of spite appeals about as much as following out of habit, so I will trust in my years of youthful reading of words and/or images to do the instinctual judgment work for me. It's pitiful, though, how alike the context of this work is to Delta of Venus as Highlander breeds of their respective genres. So there's a lesbian Künstler-graphic-roman running around the top stacks of lauded reading and breakthrough novelty. Why aren't ther I could dislike this if I really put my mind to it, but acting out of spite appeals about as much as following out of habit, so I will trust in my years of youthful reading of words and/or images to do the instinctual judgment work for me. It's pitiful, though, how alike the context of this work is to Delta of Venus as Highlander breeds of their respective genres. So there's a lesbian Künstler-graphic-roman running around the top stacks of lauded reading and breakthrough novelty. Why aren't there ten? Or twenty? Erotica's not the only genre that's suffered in this country through stigmatized neglect. True, I may not have developed as solid a grounding in Japanese lit had my preliminary exploration of comics both moving and static stayed firmly within the homeland, but you win some, you lose some.Fun Home's a stolid sort of the graphic nature, but I've spent so much time amongst the atrocious anatomies drawn in the name of heteronormativity that Bechdel's rigorous attention paid towards proper proportion and physically possible flexing is a skill in and of itself. Besides, not all the comics I've delved into dealt with world shattering action or blistering physical movement. Bechdel's not the first graphic artist to include autopsies in the panels, or the only to pan out over vast spaces of minute architectural details both exterior and in. She's not Spiegelman or Satrapi or Arakwa or Miura, but I won't pretend I don't relate far more to her excisions of literary text than to theocratic states or battles involving krakens and alchemy.What this all is, really, is my orienting myself within all the hype surrounding this work with what I've already experienced with its particular media at large. Lit is sci-fi is romance is mystery, much as graphic novel is comic is manga is storybook pictures, and yet the hierarchies keep creeping up. As such, I know exactly why this highly interior, highly cultured, highly neurotic narrative got the praise it did for "not" being what the reader expected, and why said reader will remain content to treat with this representative and little else. I'm sure Bechdel's encouraged those who desire the borderline between word and image and copious reference to the classics of theatre and literature, but the gatekeeping with regards to what will make the New York Times Book Review and what will be pointed at as the downfall of humanity still chafes.Of course, for all my indulgence in cultural products from across the ocean, I have a firm grasp on what the US written word is up to and nary a finger on the US graphic novel, so I could be wildly off the mark in terms of what fields of creation are healthy and which are not. It's still a bereft situation, though, how few come across my academic plate. To be fair, academia is never holistically good for any art, but there'd be a certain shift of sensibility if one had the option of submitting a graphic essay for English class. One, it'd start tunneling away at the negative overtones of "graphic", which should tell you something linguistic about the situation if nothing else. Two, it might slow down the plummet of funding for the arts of the education system when the necessity for line and color start creeping into the rubric. Three, it'd open up the playing field of "serious" expression to some extent. Reading and writing are both very unnatural habits within the context of the general spread of human evolution, y'know. It'd be good to start reconnecting with the more inherent visuals of artistic theme.
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  • MJ Nicholls
    April 8, 2012
    Shatters all my preconceptions of the graphic novel, reassures me of the form’s capacity for dense literally allusiveness, intellectual analysis and philosophical ponderings. Brilliant. The writer/artist was raised in a marvellously retro setting—a refurbished mansion kitted out like a Russian estate, with a snobbish bookworm for a father and an upper-class actress manqué for a mother (both of whom taught high-school English). The story attempts grand parallels between the author and her father, Shatters all my preconceptions of the graphic novel, reassures me of the form’s capacity for dense literally allusiveness, intellectual analysis and philosophical ponderings. Brilliant. The writer/artist was raised in a marvellously retro setting—a refurbished mansion kitted out like a Russian estate, with a snobbish bookworm for a father and an upper-class actress manqué for a mother (both of whom taught high-school English). The story attempts grand parallels between the author and her father, drawing comparisons with Fitzgerald, Proust and Joyce, and overegging the Greek myth a little, but also zips along with humour, eccentricity and a generation of repressed homosexuality. Mega good. Even better is Oriana’s review. Read that instead. If my graphic novel reviews seem short it’s because I’m still learning how to critique the artwork: anyone who can draw a circle sans compass is a genius to me.
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  • KFed
    June 7, 2009
    Alison Bechdel’s comic-form autobiography Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic begins and ends with strong textual and visual images of her father. The book’s first full drawing on the title page of chapter one is, in fact, a recreation of an old photograph of the enigmatic man. It sums up all that is impossible to capture about the man’s sexual and emotional being in one frame. As well, it sums up everything that makes this work artistically and thematically remarkable, an important contribution to li Alison Bechdel’s comic-form autobiography Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic begins and ends with strong textual and visual images of her father. The book’s first full drawing on the title page of chapter one is, in fact, a recreation of an old photograph of the enigmatic man. It sums up all that is impossible to capture about the man’s sexual and emotional being in one frame. As well, it sums up everything that makes this work artistically and thematically remarkable, an important contribution to literary treatments of emotional trauma and to American letters more generally.In this snapshot, re-drawn and recreated with painstaking detail by the author, a young Bruce Bechdel stands shirtless and lissome in front of his home, eyes trained directly at the reader. His exact expression is difficult to read definitively. A title beneath the photo reads “Old Father, Old Artificer,” and with this, the book immediately marks its point of entry; it deliberately marks and characterizes the man around whom the next 200 pages of image and text will center. The final frame of the work is a drawing of the same man in a swimming pool, older, waiting for his daughter, a young Alison Bechdel, to leap into his arms. By the time the reader reaches this frame, the sentiment it evokes will seem almost out of place.The two drawings taken together present both the range of Bechdel’s textual and visual project as well as the progression of her autobiographical narrative. The drawings of Bechdel’s father, framing the narrative like so, give the reader opportunity to trace a progression in narrative focus, from Bechdel’s careful consideration of her father’s secret and separate homosexual life to the consideration of the effect that this life had on the rest of his family. The book is entirely concerned with these dynamics, not least because fleshing out the life of the mysterious man on the work’s opening page is essential to understanding the life of the author herself. Fun Home is an exercise in retrospective exploration; the work engages visual and textual narratives through which the author is able to reconfigure memories of her adolescence as well as the specific moment of trauma out of which many questions of identity and selfhood for the author arose: the moment she discovered that her father committed suicide. Key to our understanding of Bechdel’s project is the notion of ‘representation’, taken to indicate something that is being re-presented, re-created, or re-rendered: a ‘re-presentation’ of the past – the people, objects and actions that are adapted into a narrative through which the author is able to ‘work through’ the trauma of her father’s death.What I loved about this work, and what marks its importance for me, is the success of this project of re-rendering and what it says about artistic approaches to representing trauma. Underlying the basics of the work's plot are questions of genre and representation. It is as if Bechdel wants, continually, to ask: Could a novel, alone, have achieved this? Could a drawing, on its own, have represented this?The image in which we see her facing her father’s dead body in a casket, for example, spans the width of the page but is actually split down its center as if it were two panels, and cut in half by this split is the author’s representation of herself viewing the casket and her father’s body; she is literally, in the moment that she sees her father, halved in two. The trauma of the loss of the physical presence of her father – the rupture of the ‘whole’ of his image – is, as suggested by this choice in cropping, such that she is ruptured.This is no ordinary representation. Fun Home is thoughtful, challenging, and most of all, a pleasure to read.
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  • Peter Derk
    March 4, 2009
    Here's why I give this book only a single star and didn't finish it.Alison Bechdel is smart. And here's how my relationship goes with people who are chronically, unendingly smart usually goes.1. I think to myself, "I want to talk to some smart people who have big ideas."2. I avail myself of a smart person.3. Smart person tells me an oral sex story, comparing the events to Homeric writings, perhaps even using the word "Homeric".4. Smart person asks a lot of questions like, "Have you read Proust?" Here's why I give this book only a single star and didn't finish it.Alison Bechdel is smart. And here's how my relationship goes with people who are chronically, unendingly smart usually goes.1. I think to myself, "I want to talk to some smart people who have big ideas."2. I avail myself of a smart person.3. Smart person tells me an oral sex story, comparing the events to Homeric writings, perhaps even using the word "Homeric".4. Smart person asks a lot of questions like, "Have you read Proust?" Not because anything about me makes them think I would enjoy Proust.5. I go home and eat Bugles straight off the coffee table while I play video games and realize that this makes me much happier. Even though I'm eating with my face the way a dog does.I know that Fun Home isn't designed to make me happy. That's not its purpose. I'm cool with experiences that aren't as fun as being drunk on a rollercoaster. I'm great with books and movies and songs that make me, specifically, unhappy. Fun Home, though well-executed in a lot of ways, was just not compelling to me. It seemed to almost push away emotion with vocabulary and reference, and it felt very cold to me. The method of referencing classic literature to explain Bechdel's life events made them less impactful, to me. The specificity of her experiences and her father's character especially were interesting, and to me, the narrative and the narrative voice were weakened by the way the references made them more universal. Please note the repeated phrase "to me."I mean, when Bechdel is with a partner, she says:"Joan was not just a visionary and activist, but a bona fide cyclops...she'd lost one eye in a childhood accident vividly reminiscent of the way Odysseus blinded Polyphemus."For those unfamiliar, Polyphemus was this big-ass cyclops dude in The Odyssey. Odysseus and his men land on an island, check out this cave full of stuff, and then Polyphemus rolls a big stone in front of the opening so the men are trapped inside. Every couple days he eats a couple of the guys until Odysseus gets him drunk and stabs him right in his only damn eye. Then, he and the uneaten men make an escape.That's how Polyphemus lost an eye. Here's Joan's description of how she lost her eye, which is in a word balloon right beneath this Polyphemus stuff:"A boy shot me with one of those toy arrows after the suction cup fell off."...Really?!Joan, it turns out, was not a cycloptic giant who ate men she trapped in a cave. She had a childhood incident that killed one of her eyes. If anything, this story is more reminiscent of the holiday classic A Christmas Story than it is of Homer's Odyssey. I mean, the only parallel I see here is that both Polyphemus and this woman lost an eye. That's it. That's like, "My name is Pete. And wait a second. Peter in the Bible...he was crucified upside-down...and I get dizzy when rollercoasters go upside-down...what a fascinating parallel!"I'm not going to say that I think Bechdel is being disingenuous. She clearly thinks quite deeply about culture and literature and whatnot, and this might actually be how her brain works. And that's cool. But as a reader, it feels like a long way to go to tie two things together that don't need to be tied together in the first place. And while the book is very reflective, it doesn't feel self-aware in a way of "I know it sounds ridiculous, but here's what I thought of..." Or, "Cut me some slack. I was in college."I guess there's a way in which this just sounds like anti-intellectual talk. And I assure you, it's not. It's not because I don't understand words like "humectant" or am unwilling to investigate. It's not because I refuse to believe that Bechdel really thinks and talks that way.It's because I don't want to read that way. 1-star review is because, for me, it's 1 star. I'm not a pro reviewer or anything, and I don't feel responsible to rate something as I imagine it would be rated by the general public. Nor is that a worthwhile exercise because you can see the average rating, so go with that. There you go. A smart person, no complaints about the politics of the story whatsoever. And frankly, its status as a classic doesn't bother me even though I don't like it. This can be a classic as can something I like. There can be more than one canon graphic novel, and there will be. It's just a book that doesn't interest me or tell a story in a way that I can appreciate.
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  • El
    May 2, 2016
    Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist, which is an area that sort of fascinates me because I can't draw a consistent comic strip to save my life. Each panel would look different. So when someone can do it convincingly, I'm intrigued. Bechdel intrigues me because not only can she do that, but she can tell her own story in that format. When you decide to write a family memoir that deals with something so complicated such as homosexuality, putting it out there can be really difficult. Then when you decide Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist, which is an area that sort of fascinates me because I can't draw a consistent comic strip to save my life. Each panel would look different. So when someone can do it convincingly, I'm intrigued. Bechdel intrigues me because not only can she do that, but she can tell her own story in that format. When you decide to write a family memoir that deals with something so complicated such as homosexuality, putting it out there can be really difficult. Then when you decide to tell the story through words and your own images... it feels like it's even more personal that way. So I applaud Bechdel for having the balls to do it, because I don't think I could.This is not an easy story for Bechdel to tell. On one hand it's the story of her life growing up in a funeral home with her two younger brothers and both her emotionally distant parents. As she grows up and she comes to terms with her own sexuality, she starts learning more about her father, and that is highlighted here as well. These stories run parallel, as any real formative experiences in our lives can.I found the story touching in some ways, and emotionally distant in others, and I can't decide if the latter was intentional or not. I appreciated how literature helped fill some of the voids in both Alison and her father's lives, and it was also what ultimately drew them together. In that sense, it broke my heart because through Alison's storytelling, I felt this connection to her father - a man who probably did want to connect with his daughter, but didn't know the first way to do that, and so the closest he could get was to reach her through their love of literature. Their relationship probably grew more than Alison was aware of doing her college years before he died just based on their exchanged letters.Of course maybe I'm just projecting since I don't really communicate with a lot of members of my family outside of the occasional email. It doesn't mean I don't care or don't love them, it's just... we don't really do the demonstrative thing, and now that we're all over the continent, it's even harder to connect. So we take those connections where we can. Right now those connections with my parents involve me emailing my mom the most recent horror movies I've watched, and then she emails back once she and my father watch them. Or I randomly send my father an email asking a question about cars that I read in a Stephen King novel, or a question about updating my resume, or CV formatting. Yes, it may seem cold, but that's how I connect to him now. It may be sad to you, but it works for us. (Or at least I think it does because we don't talk about it if it doesn't.)In any case, for a graphic memoir, I appreciated what Bechdel did here. It just didn't have the same pazzam for me as Paul Hornschemeier's Mother, Come Home which may not be a graphic memoir now that I think of it, but still. Much more powerful. Though I am glad to finally have read Fun Home too since everyone talks about it quite a bit.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    March 9, 2012
    This memoir in graphic novel form is super. Bechdel puts the ‘fun’ in both dysfunctional family and funeral home – the family business her father inherited in small-town Pennsylvania. All through her 1970s upbringing, as Alison grew up coveting men’s shirts and feeling strange quivers of suspicion when she encountered the word “lesbian” in the dictionary, her father was leading a double life, sleeping with the younger men who babysat his kids or helped out with his twin passions of gardening and This memoir in graphic novel form is super. Bechdel puts the ‘fun’ in both dysfunctional family and funeral home – the family business her father inherited in small-town Pennsylvania. All through her 1970s upbringing, as Alison grew up coveting men’s shirts and feeling strange quivers of suspicion when she encountered the word “lesbian” in the dictionary, her father was leading a double life, sleeping with the younger men who babysat his kids or helped out with his twin passions of gardening and home renovation.In an ironic sequence of events, the coming-out letter Alison sent home from college was followed just weeks later by her mother’s revelation of her father’s homosexual indiscretions and their upcoming divorce, and then no more than a few months later by her father’s sudden death. Bruce Bechdel was run down by a Sunbeam Bread truck as he was crossing the road with an armload of cleared brush from a property he was renovating. Was it suicide, or just a horribly arbitrary accident? (The Sunbeam Bread detail sure makes one cringe.) In any case, it was a “mort imbécile,” just as Camus characterized any death by automobile.Bechdel traces the hints of queerness in her family, the moments when she and her father saw into each other and recognized something familiar. She also muses on the family as a group of frustrated and isolated artists each striving, unfulfilled, towards perfection. This is a thoughtful, powerful memoir, and no less so for being told through a comic strip.(Included in my blog post “Graphic Novels for Newbies.”)
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  • BrokenTune
    October 23, 2015
    The latest foray into the realms of the graphic novel led me to Bechdel's autobiographical works about her parents.Fun Home, the earlier of the two books, describes her growing up and relationship with her father. Without going into much of the plot and issues, Fun Home offers an exploration into Bechdel's coming to terms with outgrowing the illusions of her childhood whilst exploring works of literature. In a way, one of the aspects that have kept me hooked to the story is Bechdel's connection The latest foray into the realms of the graphic novel led me to Bechdel's autobiographical works about her parents.Fun Home, the earlier of the two books, describes her growing up and relationship with her father. Without going into much of the plot and issues, Fun Home offers an exploration into Bechdel's coming to terms with outgrowing the illusions of her childhood whilst exploring works of literature. In a way, one of the aspects that have kept me hooked to the story is Bechdel's connection of her own story and that of the people around her to the plots and characters of literary works and authors.Are You My Mother? tries to follow up Fun Home with an investigation of Bechdel's relationship with her mother. Although following a similar structure as Fun Home, Are You My Mother? focuses on the analysis of Bechdel's relationship issues from a psychological perspective. Filled with anxiety and compulsion, her introspection at times is little more than a frustrating read, probably because I can't really relate to a lot of the neurosis she seems to have suffered through. The literary aspect of Fun Home is still present in this sequel but it is not at strong as in Fun Home. So, 3* for Are You My Mother and 4* for Fun Home.The drawings and artwork in in both are excellent.
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  • Sesana
    June 8, 2015
    It's no coincidence that I read and reviewed this book the day after the musical adaptation of Fun Home won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It was, after all, seeing that it had been nominated for twelve Tonys that gave me the push to finally read it. If you missed it last night, and you have any interest whatsoever in musical theater, please take a moment to watch Ring of Keys, because it's really lovely. And worth pointing out that every actor involved in that piece was nominated, an It's no coincidence that I read and reviewed this book the day after the musical adaptation of Fun Home won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It was, after all, seeing that it had been nominated for twelve Tonys that gave me the push to finally read it. If you missed it last night, and you have any interest whatsoever in musical theater, please take a moment to watch Ring of Keys, because it's really lovely. And worth pointing out that every actor involved in that piece was nominated, and one, Michael Cerveris, won in his category. But I know I'm digressing, I just really fell in love with that song last night and I'm kind of in awe of Sydney Lucas who is eleven you guys what have I done with my life.Ok, the book. This is Bechdel's memories of her dysfunctional family life, enlightened by the knowledge, only gained when she was in college, that her father was gay, or possibly bisexual, and sublimating his sexuality in literature and gardening and home restoration. There's also the relatively small detail that fun home is here short for funeral home. Which is, surprisingly, not even that important to her story. I imagine a lot of other writers would have made a lot of that, but it just isn't the point here. What makes this book, actually, is the sheer strength of Bechdel's writing. She has a remarkable way with words, and she's a very thoughtful writer, at least on this topic. She's obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about her father and her relationship with him. This is the kind of book that's had so much fantastic press for so long that I had kind of intimidated myself out of reading it. I'm glad that the musical pushed me into reading it, because this is an absorbing read, heartfelt and beautifully written.
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  • Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
    June 20, 2015
    I was running the sound board this evening for another Oklahoma! show, and reading this while I waited for the house to settle in so we could get started. An older lady glanced over and said, with a bit of obvious disdain, "Looks like you're reading something that's really intellectual." I smiled and said, "Actually, yes. The musical adaptation just won big at the Tonys two weeks ago." I briefly explained what the book entailed and the fact that it was a true story; she shut up, smiled and sat d I was running the sound board this evening for another Oklahoma! show, and reading this while I waited for the house to settle in so we could get started. An older lady glanced over and said, with a bit of obvious disdain, "Looks like you're reading something that's really intellectual." I smiled and said, "Actually, yes. The musical adaptation just won big at the Tonys two weeks ago." I briefly explained what the book entailed and the fact that it was a true story; she shut up, smiled and sat down.Alison Bechdel has such a firm grip on the English language that it leaves me enthralled. I feel like I need to give this a few days to sink in and then promptly read it again. There are lots of big words (even for us English majors!) so keep a dictionary handy. I never felt like I was being preached at or that the narrator was condescending in any way though, even with all the scholarly talk. The way she wrote made it sound perfectly natural. I wish I could say more but I'm still reeling right now-- and not just from the ending, but from the book as a whole. This definitely belongs on my shelf.
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  • Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
    February 18, 2016
    This year I've been on a quest to read more graphic novels, and Fun Home has been on my list for a while. Tomorrow, I am seeing the musical adaptation on Broadway! So I figured there was no better time to finally pick up the book.And WOW, I was blown away. Alison Bechdel's graphic novel is beautifully written and illustrated. It's emotional, funny, tragic, and engrossing from start to finish. I really loved it and I'm excited to see the play!
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  • Jason
    December 16, 2015
    This was as excellent as people have told me it would be. Loving the intertextuality here and the way Bechdel examines memory through the reading life of her father and herself. Keen to learn more about the adaptation of this graphic novel into a musical, especially how it treats the heavy focus on literature and intertextuality.
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  • Jimmy
    July 10, 2010
    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 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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