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Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home:A Family Tragicomic

June 26, 2006

It sure is hot out.  Last night there was nothing to do in my sweltering apartment but swill cheap cold beer and lay around on the couch and sweat.  I was lucky enough to have Alison Bechdel’s latest book, Fun Home, to distract me.  Alison Bechdel is the author of the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”, which appears regularly in Just Out.  Just Out tends to stick it toward the back in the community pages, so you might have to look for it. 

Fun Home is an autobiographical tale that centers around Alison’s unusual youth growing up the child of a couple who run a funeral home in rural Pennsylvania.  It focuses in particular on her relationship with her father, a closeted homosexual, and her own travails through youth as she realizes she is also queer.  It’s a very personal and intimate picture of her youth, so much to the degree you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on a secret life that one shouldn’t have access to. 

I saw Alison Bechdel a couple weeks ago at Powell’s, where she freely admitted to being a “compulsive autobiographer”.  Having kept a journal since she was 10 (I started mine then too!-), she took six painstaking years to write this book.  One of the dilemmas with autobiography is that the itis never just about you.  By opening a window into your life for others to see, you invariably give the same kind of exposure to the people in your life.  In Alison’s case, her mother’s and father’s in particular.  At Powell’s I asked her about this, and she said that though her mother wasn’t necessarily thrilled with her choice to write the book, she understood that Alison had a story to tell and a right to convey it.  Some kinds of biography or autobiography seem crass in the level of exposure – for example, Courtney Love’s recent memoir as well as her mother’s – because they seem to be written solely because they know they can make a buck off people wanting to see the intimate details of a famous person’s life.  

This isn’t the case with Alison.  One sees that in so many ways writing her memoir was solely for writing and picturing the story itself as a way of making sense of the life and death of her father and her ineluctable relationship to both.  Go out and read it for yourself – it is tragic and eloquent and completely unlike her regular comic strip.   

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2006 4:34 am

    Awsome article……

  2. June 28, 2006 2:39 pm

    Okay, I see a problem here: “there was nothing to do in my sweltering apartment but swill cheap cold beer.” If you’re going to be beating the heat with fiction and beer, they should both be top quality.

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