Alison Bechdel – Fun Home – An Epic Journey Toward Honesty
When your father is an exacting home renovator, meticulous interior decorator, local mortician, high shcool English teacher, and closeted homosexual, who you suspect likely had sexual relations with adolescent boys – if you’re like most autobiopic authors these days, then you’d probably write your own private hyperbolic “Running With Scissors,” throwing everything up against the wall, and crudely splattering your immediate family’s history across the pages of your tunnel-visioned, self-promoting, and sensational memoir. But Alison Bechdel is neither an ordinary author nor a poorly educated one. She has both an independently crafted intellect and a capable library of classic literary sources and themes. She does not choose to focus on minutia or overly far-reaching causalities. Her first autobiography is a corncopia of expertly-coordinated art forms, carved into a concise, gravitational, and enlightening narrative.
I highly recommend not only buying and reading this book, but I also encourage studying Bechdel’s perspectives, reasoning connections, and causal theories.
This book is a modern heroic quest to find meanings, understandings, and truths in intimate behaviors, wants, and relationships.
Many authors focus on picturesquely and emotionally describing the abnormalities of their past. Bechdel is fully capable of parroting those common abilities. But her aims are further reaching and more well-intended than simply trying for accurate multi-sensory recollection. She goes happily beyond and effectively reveals the origins of some of her creative forces. She sympathetically and honestly portrays the cultural, familial, and private paradoxes that likely disabled so many of her (and our) loved ones who are not ordinary in their desires.
Anyone who incorrectly thinks women can’t be visually-centric need only read this book. Bechdel’s visual memory is both astounding and rewarding for the rest of us. And her other areas of memory, from smells to feelings to current events to literary quotes in her educational development are indicative of an artist who tries to consider, evaluate, and remember more than most people do. She does not filter her memories through rose colored glasses, but she does effectively step outside status quo lenses to make her own evaluations and portrayals.
Reading some of the recent popular homosexual memoirs, a person might think homosexuals are NOT predominantly driven by love or desire, but rather driven by poor experiences, revenge, whistleblowing, or hatred. Where most authors blame their family and past relationships for their own problems, Bechdel does not. She sees more perspectives and she is better educated than most. Bechdel chooses to not simply blame others for her past OCD, inabilities, and abnormalities, even while she illustrates capably the environment in which those conditions arose.
The title “Fun Home” probably has many intended meanings, like Jeannette Wells memoir entitled “The Glass Castle” has many transparent meanings. Both memoirs speak of fun times, but I think Bechdel sees even more of the good intentions in her father’s “mad” pursuits than Wells perceived. Both fathers showed flashes of brilliance mixed with Achilles Heels so notorious, it’s a wonder they could walk at all sometimes. And in Wells’ defense, at least Bechdel’s father was better read and less often intoxicated.
The title “Fun Home” is not singularly intended with negative or sarcastic connotations. Alison Bechdel shows us how she had fun growing up, as much fun as a person could have dealing with the ever present spoken and unspoken, addressed and unaddressed familial conflicts constantly battling in her home.
I think it would be insufficient to call this a young woman’s “coming of age” book. It may be more accurate to say this book is about a family coming of age. And I think the publication of this beautiful story is an assertive exercise in encouraging societal sensibilities to come of age.
Bechdel does not seek to excuse all of her father’s behaviors, but rather to help others understand them. She wants more people to understand what can happen to very intelligent and talented people when they are incorrectly trained to believe that some of their primary drives and loves are sinful, shameful, or should be killed or hidden. She writes:
“I suppose a lifetime spent hiding one’s erotic truth could have a cummulative renunciatory effect. Sexual shame is in itself a kind of death. Ulysses, of course, was banned for many years by people who found its honesty obscene.”
I felt pretty good that I was able to not cry while reading the book. But after I read the last page, the tears just flowed.
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Fun Home has been named as one of the best books by numerous sources, including The New York Times, Time Magazine (Named #1 Book of the Year), Amazon.com, The Times of London, Publishers Weekly, Salon.com, New York Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.
Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, wrote that the book was “Brave and forthright and insightful – exactly what Alison Bechdel does best.”
Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, said, “It’s understated and warm and filled with hundreds of satisfying details that made me go straight back to the beginning as soon as I’d finished.”
Available at Amazon and many other online websites.
© All rights reserved by Alison Bechdel.