File another one under “late to the party.” I just finished Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and, no surprise, it was amazing. I live by Alison Bechdel’s “Bechdel Test” in terms of my writing–consciously following or consciously not following it with every story I write. (For a work of art–film, theater, writing, etc.–to pass the Bechdel Test, you probably know, there must be at least two named female characters who have a conversation together about something other than men.)
So why did it take me so long to read this book? I’ll admit–I have a slight bias against graphic novels. It’s not that I don’t think they’re worthy or valid or just as good as other forms of literature, but, for me, I usually think they tend to do too much. I like to meet the work I’m reading halfway, but I think, in some cases, graphic novels, by supplying both words and images come at me with more than half the work done already. Honestly, this was somewhat the case with Fun Home, though, so I think I might just be wrong. The words compliment the pictures, which, as the best “illustrated” works do, don’t illustrate the pictures but tell complimentary, but different, pieces of the story. The images were often witty, self-effacing counterpoints to the words, or lent ambiguity to what might seem more decisive if limited to pure text.
Bechdel’s book is a memoir, covering her childhood until her father’s death, while she was in college and he was in his forties. The story isn’t linear; at times chapters retread different time periods, but revealing different information and perspectives. In this way, she starts with broader information about her family and then goes psychologically and thematically deeper as the book progresses. The book as a really careful, calculated, but seemingly natural structure.
This is a moving, complicated, beautiful book that I’ll probably read again.