analyze this

September 11th, 2006 | Interviews & Reviews

Whoa. Guttergeek, The Discontinuous Review of Graphic Narrative, just posted a lovely, academic review of Fun Home by Michael Moon, a professor at Emory. It has some interesting psychoanalytic insights. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Take for example the amazing picture (top of p. 44) of her child-self in silhouette, observing her father laboring in his embalmer’s role over a bearded and naked corpse from which he appears to have extracted heart, lungs, stomach and bowels through a gaping hole in the front of the body….Here is meticulous, Thomas Eakins-like physical detail, in both drawing and writing. But here too (although we may overlook it) is probably the book’s most harrowing visualization of Bechdel’s worst fears about her father: that he lacked, to a radical degree, some kind of crucially important interiority.

16 Responses to “analyze this”

  1. pd says:

    Sometimes a corpse is just a corpse?

  2. sunicarus says:

    Congratulations, Alison!

    What an interesting, thought-provoking, and beautifully written review. I am pondering the idea that your father “lacked, to a radical degree, some kind of crucially important interiority.” Michael Moon’s methodical examination makes so much sense in that your father, “The Great Artificer”, was driven by the exterior decoration of not only his house (ie light fixtures and sconces) but the image of the family as a whole. There is a palpable feeling of the struggle between you and your father. You searching for uncovering the veils of secret and artifice and he choosing to find beauty in, ironically, “interior decorating” which comes across as empty. The “red cave” reminds me of not only Plato ( you in silhouette like the shadows on the wall) but also anatomically, the place where a heart should be. Not to say he was completely heartless but somehow missing the viceral, the “guts” necessary to connect with others completely.

    Are you aware of psychoanalytic insights when you are creating or is this something that comes after reflection of the finished project? Hmmm….

  3. sunicarus says:

    LOL. Or what pd says.

  4. shadocat says:

    Funny-that’s just I thought when I first read it, although the words that were used, we much more refind and respectable than the ones that were in my mind. My thoughts were more along the line of,”What the hell? Did that guy really ask his daughter to bring in a pair of scissors into a room where he was working on dead, nude, partially disembowled guy?”

  5. Jaibe says:

    Back to the review — I actually thought it was amazing how much discussion — well, not discussion, description? — of your mother there *was* in the book, given that she’s still alive and a part of your life. The first time through I thought she was neglected, but the second time through I realized there was a huge amount of information about her, really, perhaps equal to the amount about your father, but just always introduced in things not said — drawings and anecdotes, but no explicit analysis.

  6. LisaLou says:

    That scene was indeed striking, powerful, and presented in amazing detail. So I certainly agree with the quotation. But I popped in here to say that I hear tell “-ity” is the suffix of choice in the academy these days. It’s kind of a joke among grad students I know. We “-ity” all kindsa terms for a laugh— like the DTWOF laughs from titles in Sydney’s world, if you will.

    The danger of that sort of fashion of verbal style, of course, is that, later on, writing using it stands a good chance of sounding dated.

  7. --MC says:

    It fits. Who else would put things over family, who would rather have the simulacrum of a happy family rather than the family itself, than a dad with minus in the interiority?
    I may have said time and again how I can relate because Bruce Bechdel reminds me of dads I have known, and the mortuary sequence reminded me vividly of the time my own father had me look at a kitten that had been killed and fly-blown. It was some kind of test, and I’m pleased to note that I failed it vividly.

  8. --MC says:

    I just like writing vividly. Please revise the last sentence to read “I failed it entirely.”

  9. NLC says:

    So, to resume an earlier discussion, does this
    mean that we should start using “Bechdelity”
    as the adjective of choice?

    [Joking aside, this is a great review. I can
    only imagine what it must be like to have
    someone relate in so obviously thoughtful and
    serious a way to something that you’ve committed
    so much work, effort and feeling to.]

  10. LisaLou says:

    NLC: ha! why not? at least for now…

  11. Emily in LA says:

    MC, I rather like “I failed it vividly” because it conjures up the image of you puking all over your shoes, or going into a crying jag, or something similarly physically vivid.

  12. JimmiJon says:

    Loved the book. Thank you, Alison, for letting us in on a significantly (non)emotional period of your life. Rock on.

  13. Pam Isherwood says:

    Fun Home has finally (14th Sept) been published officially in the UK, but the publishers – Jonathan Cape – don’t seem to realise what they have. It’s in paperback only so (a) readers will lose a lot of the pleasure in handling it and (b) it will miss some library sales. And I can’t find any reviews on a UK search, the papers should be full of it today. Maybe the weekend papers will have some. The amazing success of the book in the US should surely have alerted them to get behind it the way HMifflen did, and to pay for a big UK tour if AB can bear it (at least the distances here are shorter). Amazon UK are quoting 4 to 6 weeks delivery, which is garbage for a regular UK publisher. What can we do to help?

  14. Anonymous says:

    That’s pretty typical of the ‘chicken or egg’ dillema of Psychology. You can do some clever reconstructions of past events, but as a predictive tool it sometimes falls pretty flat. Comparing the corpse with her father’s lack of paternal affection? Seems like the reviewer is using Allison’s own conclusions in an overly clever manner.

    Allison’s own introspective bent and artistic genius was good enough for me, I don’t need anyone else sorting the chaff.

    I agree with PD. A corpse is a corpse, of course of course.

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