December 8th, 2006 | Interviews & Reviews, Oddments
I’m still hanging out at my mom’s. We just went up in the attic to retrieve a hat from her collection. She’ll wear it tomorrow when she greets people at the County Library and Historical Museum as part of the town’s Victorian Christmas shindig. She wouldn’t let me take a picture of her until she has her whole costume on. I’ll do that tomorrow, but for now here’s a preview with me in the hat.
On another note, Fun Home got such a lovely mention by Ed Park on Critical Mass, the blog of the national book critics circle board of directors, that I’m quoting it in its entirety here.
Far and away my favorite book this year was Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — a masterpiece, full stop. I read it in one gulp, starting late in the evening, unable to put it down — and actually thinking, well before reaching the end, This is the best book of the year. Even in the rich realm of autobiographical comics, Fun Home stands out.
It’s not only the story of Bechdel’s unusual, sometimes strained family life (in an impeccably appointed Victorian straight out of Charles Addams, with a closeted father who runs a funeral home and teaches English), but a beautifully written, carefully assembled meditation on life and literature. Bechdel enlists all the heavy hitters — Joyce and Proust and many more — to help tell her tale, but not for a moment does this technique feel ponderous or overdetermined. The connections between their words and her world are so elegant that they seem necessary.
Fun Home is also one of the great book-length uses of the form of comics. It’s hard to imagine this working in any other medium. Bechdel’s often intricate prose, and the long passages transcribed from the classics, require the deliberate pace of the page, but so do her complex images, which swing freely beyond usual figures-in-a-panel to maps and diagrams, a slew of talismanic photos, heartbreakingly obsessive diary pages, and more. The magic is that all of this is immediately comprehensible to the reader, instantly enveloping, so that what we’re left with at the end is a high water-mark of pure emotion.