Sep 22, 2008

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (and Read-a-thon!)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is an autobiographical story about Alison Bechdel’s childhood, the death of her father, and how she dealt with the realization that she was gay. There’s even more that she has to deal with, like the circumstances of her father’s death and a particular fact that she learns about him shortly before he dies. But I don’t want to give too much away.

Alison Bechdel’s parents are both English teachers. Her father is also obsessed with restoring old houses, like the Adams Family style mansion the family lives in, and runs the family business – a funeral home. Alison’s childhood, then, is filled with Gothic houses, coffins, and books. Lots and lots of books.

Fun Home moves back and forth in time, from Alison’s childhood to the weeks before and after her father’s death. Her relationship with her father is at the centre of this story. And books are an essential part of their relationship – they are a language they have in common, a means to hint at things that are never openly said.

Fun Home is a story about death and loss, growing up, sexual and gender identity, and of course, books. It’s full of literary allusions, from Greek myths to Charles Adams, Shakespeare, Proust, Fitzgerald or Henry James. Many of these are books I haven’t read, or, in the case of Ulysses, books I happily plan on never reading. But nevertheless, I felt right at home with Fun Home. Even if I'm not familiar with the books in question, I am more than familiar with the process of trying to make sense of yourself, your life and the world in general through literature. Does it always work? I have no idea. But, like Alison Bechdel, this is something I’ve been doing since I was a child. This is how she puts it:
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.
The artwork in Fun Home is both simple and extremely expressive, and it couldn’t suit the story more perfectly. This is an honest, intelligent and sophisticated book. And a very good read.

Other Blog Reviews:
Biblio File
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Valentina's Room
Farm Lane Books Blog
Jenny's Books
Books & Other Thoughts

The official sign-up post for the third Read-a-thon is already up. The Read-a-thon will take place on the 18th of October, starting at 5am Pacific Time. Even if you can't participate as a reader, you can still get involved and be a cheerleader for a couple of hours (or even just one). You can also donate prizes and bookmooch points, or help Dewey with the administrative tasks. To find out more, click here.


  1. Oh, this book sounds wonderful! Guess who is off to her library's website?

    And by the way, let me just say again how totally excited I am that you're going to be able to read this time around!!!

  2. I've never heard of it, and I love it already!
    also, I'm happy to know I'm not alone in not even thinking about tackling Ulysses :P

  3. I have not read a graphic novel yetj but keep saying I'm going to. This sounds quite good-the themes involved in the book sound intriguing. Thanks for the great review Nymeth.

  4. I believe this was the first true graphic novel I'd ever read,and it definitely impressed upon me the fact that I'd been missing out! I'm almost ashamed to say that had no idea graphic novels had the potential to be that good. I'm really glad you enjoyed this.

    P.S. I too have absolutely no desire to read "Ulysses." I'm sure it's great in its own way, but I'm not a sadist. :)

  5. This book sounds great, Nymeth! I've not read any English graphic novels (well, except Chinese ones) but I bought one of Fable series lately... I can't wait to read it. :)

  6. Yet another super cool book to add to the wishlist! I'm so excited about the upcoming read-a-thon!!! I'm actually going to be able to read this time :D I think I'm going to go pick up Nation for it after your incredible think it would make a good read-a-thon read?

  7. I haven't heard of this one, but your description sounds really intriguing. And I can't say no to a graphic novel. Just not possible!

  8. Oh Nymeth, you seem to be reading all the good stuff and infecting us as well. I've just put Nation into my wish list and will be getting it soon - waiting for its turn to enter the ever growing TBR pile.

    Have a great week ahead!

  9. I haven't read a graphic novel yet, though this one sounds interesting. Great review.

    I still haven't decided about the read-a-thon. If it allows me to get out of cooking and cleaning for the weekend, then I'm there!

  10. I am always pleased when people use the graphic novel medium effectively to tell deeper truths. It is such a great medium to tell stories and I'm sad that more people haven't discovered how wonderful that they can be. They aren't all men in tights and women with enormous knockers!!!

    This one looks and sounds great. I love the art and all the things the story references make it sound like something I would enjoy reading. Gonna have to see if my library has a copy.

  11. Debi: I'm really excited too :D I hope your library has this one!

    Valentina, I think you'd enjoy Fun Home. In some ways it reminded me of Persepolis. The books are very different, but both have the same kind of fearless honesty that I so like. And nope, you're definitely not alone :P

    Dar: I think this would be a good one to start with. I hope you enjoy your first graphic novel, whichever it turns out to be!

    j.S. Peyton, nothing to be ashamed you know :P And yay for another member of the I-will-never-read-Ulysses league. I read Dubliners and part of Portrait of an Artist, and that was enough Joyce for a lifetime (or three).

    Melody: yay, you got a Fables book! I can't wait to see how you like it :)

    Chris: Nation is the kind of book that if I were on a plane reading it and I was told we were about to crash, I would rush to read a few more pages before we plummeted down :P Okay, morbid example and I know I'm slightly biased when it comes to Terry, but yes, I think it'd make a great read-a-thon read! The only thing is that it's not too short, but it's not too long either...400 pages, but this is a hardcover with good sized print. And it feels shorter than it is.

    Kim, I know just how you feel. I hope you enjoy this one!

    Alice: It's a good kind of infecting, though, isn't it? :P And you all do it to me as well, so we're even! And thank you, Alice, you too!

    Anna: Like I was telling Dar, I think this would work well as an introduction to the medium. I hope you do end up being able to participate in the read-a-thon!

    Carl, they really aren't! And fortunately more and more people are discovering it these days. But I know what you mean, it still makes me sad to see them being looked down on. I hope you manage to find this one at the library.

  12. This is one of those books on my READ IT NOW list! And of course I keep forgetting to get hold of it. I have a Barnes & Noble gift card calling my name. I think this might be just the thing.

  13. Andi, do get it! I think this one has your name written all over it.

  14. That sounds wonderful! I love the panels you included. I'm sold (darn you!). :-)

  15. Darla: I'd say sorry, but that happens to me whenever I visit your blog too :P

  16. As I was reading the first paragraph of this post I thought--this sounds really familiar. That's when I realized how far behind I am and that I had already read the first half of this post a while ago. :( I'll have to keep this one in mind next time I go to the bookstore--sounds like one that a lot of us literature lovers can certainly relate to.

    Also, I'm so glad you'll be doing the read-a-thon this time around. I'll be out of town, but I'll be cheering everyone on in spirit!!

  17. Trish, I know the feeling! Sometimes I read parts of posts and have to stop too, and other times I read a post and have no time to comment and make a mental note to come back later, except that of course later I forget what I've read and what I haven't. Anyway, I think you'd enjoy Fun Home. And I really wish you could be around for this Read-a-thon too! But hopefully we'll both be able to do the one after that.

  18. Ack! I really need to get back to my graphic novels challenge list. Fun House is one of the ones I am hoping to read. It looks so good! Have a great week, Nymeth.

  19. Sounds like a very interesting graphic novel. It's always good when people in books love other books! I signed up for the read-a-thon this time around and am looking forward to it.


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