Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback – 14 September 2006
It is a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions, with panels that combine the detail and technical proficiency of R. Crumb with a seriousness, emotional complexity and innovation completely its own... A comic book for lovers of words! Bechdel's rich language and precise images combine to create a lush piece of work - a memoir where concision and detail are melded for maximum, obsessive density― New York Times
Bechdel's memoir offers a graphic narrative of uncommon richness, depth, literary resonance and psychological complexity . . . shares [much] in spirit with the work of Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, and other contemporary memoirists of considerable literary accomplishement― Kirkus Reviews
The recursively told story, which revisits the sites of tragic desperation again and again, hits notes that resemble Jeanette Winterson at her best... She's made a story that's quiet, dignified and not easy to put down― Publishers Weekly
One of the very best graphic novels ever ― Booklist
About the Author
Alison Bechdel is the author of two internationally acclaimed graphic memoirs, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama. Fun Home was a New York Times bestseller, won an Eisner Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named a Best Book of the 21st Century by the Guardian, was adapted to a broadway musical which won five Tony Awards and is currently being adapted for cinema. For twenty-five years, she wrote and drew the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, a visual chronicle of modern life - queer and otherwise - considered 'one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre'. Alison Bechdel is guest editor of Best American Comics, 2011, and has drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney's, Entertainment Weekly, Granta, and The New York Times Book Review. In 2014 she was named as one of the recipients of the MacArthur 'Genius' Award.
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- Publisher : Jonathan Cape (14 September 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0224080512
- ISBN-13 : 978-0224080514
- Item Weight : 380 g
- Dimensions : 22.1 x 14.73 x 1.52 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #90,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from India
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While It did not capture my attention from the start, It did manage to have a lasting impact on me and my perception of the word "lesbian" for some reason.
I do believe this book is one of those rare books that can convey the underlying sense of being in an ostracised community.
Maybe because of my cultural influence I viewed the book a bit differently at first glance,I thought it would be boring too.
Once I got into it , It was a smooth ride and I truly understood within my limited understanding.
Bechdel may have told her own life to us, which doesn't require much creativity, but she has done so well with the references to literature and other works made in her book.
"Fun home" requires a reader who has already read extensively to gain a sense of what she is trying to convey.
There are two ways of reading this book, one as a direct straight read and the other is reading with the intention to draw meaning and deeper resonance in the text.
I think her book is meant for the latter, I simply cannot do that at this point of my existence-I lack knowledge and insight myself.
Her book is just like her life, Imperfect and grey and yet I think it is a wonderful and delicate balance she holds as an artist and an author.
NOTE-Initially I gave this book 4 stars and a negative review, but on further analysis, I realised my own incompetence was the reason I could not/and still cannot fully understand the work.
Top reviews from other countries
From the start there are pointers that her life is developing into a tragic tale. We are left in no doubt that her father was a complicated man with many internal torments.
The language is rich and luxurious with the great use of some unusual words (one or two even had me looking up definitions).
I've now read a few graphic books and think this book is put together brilliantly. The words and pictures both add to each other. There is great detail in the graphics as well, many of which add more to the story than the words can alone.
There is much tragedy but it is related in a blackly humorous way (man times crossing back and forward the line between comedy and tragedy).
The narrative sections break into four types: the overall story telling, dialogue in speech bubbles, occasional explanatory notes and labels highlighting an element of a drawing.
Essentially the book is about a father and daughter relationship. They struggle to come to terms with their differences whilst refusing to acknowledge their obvious similarities. Much of the commonality is around literature and the arts, leading to a few points where the author relies too heavily on literary references. However, I very much liked the reliance on the artistic talents in the family, particularly the mother's acting which allows her to step away from her real world.
What strikes me most about this book is the depth of emotion that is written into every, carefully chosen, word. It can be a cliche to say that the process of writing is cathartic but, with this book, that feels appropriate.
She was a literature student, so if you're a literature buff you will probably enjoy a lot of references that likely went straight over my head. I'm guessing there was probably a lot deeper thematic references I'm missing not actually being as well read as I'd like to be.
But even if you aren't a literary buff, it's a story that takes you on an proper journey and by the end of it my heart is with hers and I feel the beauty of the pain from which she writes, without ever screaming about. Couldn't recommend it more.
The story is compelling as well, a memoir told in a comic strip format which works really well. The author/artist is relating the story of her childhood growing up with her father and mother in her family's funeral home. Her father is also a homosexual and conducts a number of affairs with younger men throughout his married life. The story, the author seems keen to inform the reader, is her interpretation of her history. There is, it seemed to me, a covert allusion to the fact that some of her story might be false, because, as we all know, memory can be flawed and one can only ever represent one understanding of it. I loved the way her father seemed to see her family life (according to her) as "a still life with children" - family seemed, to him, to be a work of art - as was her father's refurbishment of the house they lived in. This is an unusual memoir and one I would definitely recommend.
Her 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home actually represents two genres, one that is not widely read and another that is growing in strength, so much so that US colleges have added it to their reading lists for liberal arts students. Fun Home attracted criticism from more conservative students, who disagree with its sexual content and imagery. The fact that colleges believe students can learn from a graphic novel—and the novel can cause such a stir—is a testament to its ingenuity.
Bechdel sees no need to tell the story of her father’s death, the emergence of her own homosexuality and everything that led up to the two in a linear fashion. Instead, she zips between her family home, the title funeral home, her college classes and trips away with her mother, father and siblings, choosing to join the chapters by her feelings towards particular situations or events rather than in any traditional sequence. The story centres around the death of Bechdel’s father and what it means to her. Bechdel’s journeys into the past reveal a father who preferred to restore houses than spend time with his daughter, and who slept with men, often his students, behind the back of his wife and family.
Fun Home delivers the tragedy in Bechdel’s life with comedic aplomb, illustrating key scenes from her childhood and adolescence in a cartoon style that harks back to the comics that came before. Particularly revealing is a snapshot of a certain letter from father to daughter, because his indecipherable handwriting means all the reader has is the narrator’s reflections. Lacking context, Bechdel’s narrator must be relied upon, and the next page reveals the last time she saw her father, in an illustration that shows them getting on as well as they can, sat next to each other playing the piano. “It was unusual, and we were close. But close enough,” remarks Bechdel’s narrator.
The strength of Fun Home is in its yearning to understand fatherhood and sexuality and everything else that goes on during the chronicled period of Bechdel’s life. Her narrator never settles on definitive conclusions—it’s not entirely clear if Bechdel’s father committed suicide or was the victim of an accident—but prefers somewhere in the middle, which is both a challenge and a joy for the reader, who too wants to understand where Bechdel’s narrator is coming from, and is likely going next.
Besides the cartoonish illustrations and dry dialogue is a narration that touches on literature of all kinds, as Bechdel likens texts and passages to points in her own time. What’s created is a flowing story that peaks and troughs and runs wild and streams slowly, as Bechdel’s narrator attempts to grow closer to her father, and if not, understand him, and failing that, hate him. When that doesn’t work, she learns to be like him. And the reader is left wondering if there was really anything wrong at all.