Fun Home

The latest edition of the London Graphic Novel Network is now up. I've written about Fun Home ages ago, and I don't say a lot of new things, but the other reactions are worth reading. My bit below:

It's telling that Bechdel explains explicitly why [the literary allusions] are used:

"I employ these allusions 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"

I say "telling" because each allusion Bechdel uses is ALSO explicitly explained. Fun Home isn't like rounds of Radio 4's Quote Unquote where you are quizzed on your literary knowledge. It's not a game of spot the reference, because Bechdel always does the work for you and gives you all the answers. Which is why some ppl can read it and not even be fazed by its uber-literate stylo. And her attitude is the opposite of haughty. Instead she describes the habit almost as a tic - and the reasons behind it are actually (when you read the above) q sad.

I almost get the sense that the references are involuntary - an abnormal, almost pathological way to engage with the world. I like to draw a link with the obsessive compulsive disorder Bechdel develops and then overcomes when she's 10. There is a sense in Fun Home that literature becomes about asserting control of a reality that is in fact ~beyond~ your control. Developing links and patterns to your experiences is a way to digest and understand them, and there is a comfort and satisfaction to that very similar to counting things and coming to an even number.

That for me is the central insight in the book, and why I think it's so brilliant.

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