05 August 2010

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

This is certainly a very clever book, but it somehow failed to really engage me emotionally. Bechdel writes about her childhood, focusing mostly on her relationship with her father. Her father was a closeted homosexual with a penchant for younger men. Alison is a lesbian. Her father killed himself when she was in college. These are the three main issues the book orbits, and the thing is, after awhile, you start to feel like everything comes back to one of those three things, and it starts to feel kind of ponderous.

You know what? I think I might be tired of stories about closeted homosexuals who have a penchant for younger men. The shame, the guilt, the nastiness, I dunno, it just seems like I've been over it so many times that I just don't find it all that gripping anymore. Isn't that strange?

Likewise, the whole torturous figuring-out-that-you're-gay thing. I should have more sympathy for this, but gosh, it gets kind of self-indulgent and boring after awhile. Not to mention, cliche.

Meanwhile, however, there's a nice use of old letters and interspersed literature. Of course I enjoyed the literary interpellations (one of those things a graphic novel can do very well, that other genres would have a hard time with) though Bechdel's own commentary on them often left something to be desired.

One of the reviewers on goodreads.com points out there's more narration than dialogue in terms of moving the plot, and that's true, I guess. The same reviewer complains that the intertextual references make the protagonist seem like a character, and that overall the whole thing seems too abstract rather than like you're actually accessing emotion. I dunno about that. But the point about narration is a good one. Most of the text is basically narration - like a voice-over - with scenes that sort of illustrate the point, but don't really add to it. Only rarely does the comic actually stand alone without that - there's very little dialogue. Which probably contributes to the sense of distance that aforementioned reviewer feels, and indeed, that I feel.

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