Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

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 wee...

Title:Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0618871713
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:232 pages

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Reviews

  • Emily

    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.

  • Meg Powers

    Reading

    put me in the same irritated and impatient mood experienced when reading Toni Morrison's

    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

    in a major way). However, this is not a review of

    , so I suppose I will set aside that grudge for now.

    This is

    Reading

    put me in the same irritated and impatient mood experienced when reading Toni Morrison's

    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

    in a major way). However, this is not a review of

    , 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

    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

    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.

  • Paul Bryant

    THIS JUST IN : P BRYANT FAILS HIP GRAPHIC NOVEL TEST

    Fun 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 TEST

    Fun 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

    of

    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 -

    that she herself is gay, and then they become a lot closer and then stuff happens but

    . I wanted more stuff. I'm unreasonable.

    I read books for stuff, you know.

  • Fabian

    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)

  • Larry H

    Family dysfunction, bow down to the Bechdel family.

    Alison Bechdel's father Bruce was an enigma to her while she was growing up—an English teacher and director of the family-owned funeral home (aka the "Fun Home") who had an exacting eye for fashion, decor, and gardening. He wasn't a bad father, but he always seemed to keep her and her brothers at arm's length, not to mention her mother.

    While Alison remembered some special, tender times, she remembered more moments of being forced to wear an outf

    Family dysfunction, bow down to the Bechdel family.

    Alison Bechdel's father Bruce was an enigma to her while she was growing up—an English teacher and director of the family-owned funeral home (aka the "Fun Home") who had an exacting eye for fashion, decor, and gardening. He wasn't a bad father, but he always seemed to keep her and her brothers at arm's length, not to mention her mother.

    While Alison remembered some special, tender times, she remembered more moments of being forced to wear an outfit she didn't want, scolded into meeting his tough cleaning standards, and feeling bewildered at his obsession with making sure all of the flowers around their house always looked perfect.

    When Alison was in college, she came out to her parents as a lesbian. Shortly thereafter, she found out that her father was gay. While perhaps not entirely surprising if she added up all of the signs and clues she might have noted subconsciously, the discovery still throws her for a loop. And while they had one half-conversation about this, a few weeks after his revelation, her father died, leaving a legacy of mystery and confusion in his wake.

    "Perhaps my eagerness to claim him as 'gay' in the way I am 'gay,' as opposed to bisexual or some other category, is just a way of keeping him to myself—a sort of inverted oedipal complex."

    is both a daughter's efforts to make sense of her father's life and death as it is an account of growing up uncomfortable in your own skin, of knowing you are different but being afraid of acknowledging it for fear everything might change, even though it should. It's a story of coming to terms with who you are, while remembering a man who really never had that luxury.

    I'm

    late to the party in reading this, and while I've heard some of the music from the musical version of

    , I never saw the show either. I've never read a graphic novel/memoir before (although I read lots of Archie, Betty, and Veronica comics growing up, and was addicted to the Silver Surfer), and this was both a refreshing and challenging format for me.

    This book practically pulsates with emotion, anger, and confusion, as well as the uncertainty that comes with self-discovery. When it dealt with Alison's own life or her father's struggles to find himself, the book is strongest, but it spends a lot of time holding up their story against a backdrop of classic literature (which her father so loved), and after a while I didn't enjoy those portions as much. However, as someone who wishes his father was still alive so we could have conversations about life there never seemed to be time for then, I found

    beautifully moving.

    If you mostly read books via Kindle or another e-reader, do yourself a favor and borrow or buy the printed version of this one. I was so glad I made the investment to enjoy the power of how Bechdel's illustrations told as much of the story as her words. While this wasn't perhaps as good as I had expected it to be, it still is powerful, and I'll remember it for some time to come.

    See all of my reviews at

    .


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