April 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized

Man. I have been trying and trying to find time to write a blog post, but I have never been so busy in my life. Thanks to Mentor and others for noting some of the recent developments around here—the Guggenheim, The joint review of my new memoir and Jeanette Winterson’s new memoir in New York Magazine. And also this week’s New Yorker profile—which the author Judith Thurman is having a live chat about on Wednesday.

Here’s a small close-up of the illustration I got to do for The New Yorker piece.

blog of NYer pic

Any one of these items would have sent me to bed for a week, but they’re all happening at once. Plus this week I’m traveling from Chicago (where I’m teaching at the University of Chicago until June) to NYC to attend the Publishing Triangle Awards where I will be receiving the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award. I protested that I am too young to receive a lifetime achievement award, but by the end of all this I may have aged into the proper bracket.

Here’s what I’ve done since finishing Are You My Mother on February 3rd: Took my mother on a trip to Las Vegas. Uprooted myself and moved away from my home to teach in Chicago. Co-curated an exhibit of my work with my colleague here, Hillary Chute. Had an opening for the show. Did multiple public talks, including a Graphic Novel Symposium at Colorado College last week with Hillary and Chris Ware. Drew a self portrait to accompany The New Yorker profile. (below are some studies.) Received copies of my book hot off the press and spotted billions of tiny errors, and some not so tiny, which took me a long time to recover from. Did many publicity interviews, with very fancy people like Lev Grossman at Time Magazine, and Maud Newton, though these are not out yet.

But the big thing has been teaching a class twice a week, on autobiographical comics, with Hillary Chute. These kids are very smart and it is hard staying even half a step ahead of them. Plus Hillary has us reading all kinds of dense, difficult autobiographical theory that I barely understand.

I want to return to Jeanette Winterson for a moment. In some interview I read with her recently, she said that she feels ill if she can’t read every day. And I would say that I start to feel a little ill, or at least hollow and insubstantial, if I can’t write every day—at least a very minimal diary entry or blog post about what I’ve been doing. And I haven’t been able to do that in many weeks now.

I hope that this post makes me feel better.

Here are some of my studies for The New Yorker illustration. It was very helpful to have a drawing to work on while I’m living in this strange faraway place.



98 Responses to “hellzapoppin’”

  1. Alex K says:

    My most recent order at Foyle’s: Your book, and Winterson’s.

    Placed A WEEK AGO.

    Coincidence? I think NOT. Time to make myself a tinfoil hat, AB.

    (Of all the places to go — Las Vegas! Absolutely inspired.)

  2. Eva says:

    Ak! Indeed, you could live another 50 years, so the lifetime achievement award could be slightly premature. But consider you’ve been writing Are You My Mother? Since you were in your twenties (if I understand a section of AYMM correctly), so it’s an award for your lifetime, so far, of work, even if the people who gave you the award don’t know that! BTW, I love that Judith Thurman doesn’t write the acronym for Dykes To Watch Out For as DTWOF but “Dykes” in the profile in the New Yorker! Plus, her descriptions of you and Holly are so warm and affectionate. I just love Judith Thurman even more than ever, now. Does drawing every day fulfill the same need as writing every day? Can you draw a diary post every day, so a half hour, during this super intense time? Just a thought. My best wishes to you during the whirlwind. May you land safely!

  3. Ginjoint says:

    Good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how you’ve managed it all, Alison. Crazy life!

    I’ve also been wondering what your mother thinks of the book. I do hope she’s O.K. with it.

    For those of you who’ve gotten your hands on the book – ME SO JEALOUS. AARRRGGH, JEALOUS GINJOINT. And sorry that Chicago’s weather went back to normal.

  4. cybercita says:

    Hello Alison, I just opened my New Yorker {which I confess I normally just toss aside most weeks after looking for the Roz Chast cartoon} and saw a panel of drawings that looked quite familiar. How thrilling! I am eagerly looking forward to the morning subway ride so I can read it.

  5. Cathy says:

    Perfect frustration: Having problems with my wi-fi as I’m trying to download the latest New Yorker onto my e-reader, knowing I probably won’t get the dead-tree version in the mail until mid-week. Finally got the problem fixed and read the piece. What do you think of it, AB? When I was a journalist, each time I did a profile or interview, I worried that my subjects would feel I had screwed up or misunderstood them. Which is nothing compared to what you have had to face in doing AYMM.

    Thanks for including the photos on this blog, especially the one of you extending the “skirt” (wouldn’t that make a great book jacket shot?)

  6. NLC says:

    Cathy#5 is, of course, right that it’s always fascinating to see the “pose-pictures” (i.e. the photos that AB famously uses as models for subsequent drawing). But here’s the ones I really want to see:

    On pages 233-4 of RUMM (neener, neener Gj#3 😉 ) there is a series of drawing showing AB taking –and examining– the photos of herself that are used to pose the drawing in question. So, presumably these drawings themselves have there own underlying pose-picture.

    All placed neatly below the quote from Winnicott:
    When I look I am seen, so I exist“.

    (I won’t mention the mirror in the background of one frame.)

    Those are the (meta?-(meta?-))photos I want to see…

  7. RK Miller says:

    Both of these books have been on my “to buy” list for months. What’s your opinion of your book as a printed copy vs. an Ipad version? The last book I got (Steve Jobs) was printed so poorly, and I don’t want to risk that with your book.

  8. Kassie says:

    Alison, I am among the legions of your fans who are simply busting their buttons with happiness and pride at all your successes. We knew you when, always loved your work, and looky at you now!
    Hope the circus atmosphere doesn’t get too too extreme that you can’t savor it for maybe a few seconds a day?! And I really love that magnificent illustration for the NY’er, which gives the reader at least as much info about “your world” as the Thurman article. I tried yesterday to study it closely on the IPad, and the damned thing kept turning the image when I tried to look at it from all four sides! Luckily, my dead tree edition arrived today. Can’t stop poring over it. The “AYMM?” excerpt is so very intriguing, and I noted with a grin your shout-out to J.R. as your car speeds down the expressway.
    All best!!!!

  9. judybusy says:

    What a great year–and it’s not even half over!

    I’ll have to read the New York mag article later–busy at work.

    Congratulations on every thing, Alison!

    (And holy smokes, young people so smart AB’s a bit intimidated? Sheesh!)

  10. Ben says:

    It’s always good to hear from you, busy as your life is.

    Congratulations on everything! I really look forward to this book.

  11. hairball_of_hope says:


    Mazel Tov on the lifetime achievement award. I suppose you could paraphrase Mark Twain, “Rumors of my impending death are greatly exaggerated.”

    Yesterday I stopped in at the W. 18th St Bunns & Noodles looking for a technical book (sigh… all the tech bookshops in Manhattan have shuttered their doors in recent years, and the pickings at B&N are pretty darn slim too).

    I passed by a table of books set up for Mother’s Day. It had the usual “Chicken Soup…” title, a book about reconciling with one’s mother before it’s too late, another about juggling motherhood and worklife, but no AYMM by AB. I wondered what would inspire someone to give AYMM to her/his mom for Mother’s Day, and how that would play out in family dynamics. Someone here once remarked about being given “The Drama of the Gifted Child” by someone dating her dad. I suppose it could be a similarly uncomfortable event.

    Then I passed by a table of kids books, and among them was P.D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” in two different versions, one meant for reading by older kids and the other meant for gnawing on by younger readers (washable and non-foldable pages!). I thought about what might happen if either Eastman’s or AB’s book were inadvertently given to the unintended audience. I suppose the book gnawers would have lots more to chew on, not sure how AB’s fans would react to finding her as a bird getting plopped back into the nest by a mechanical crane. Not much Winnicott in that story.

    As for the New Yorker, I loved the feline who made her way into every pose. Smart cat.

    (… goes back to wondering how cats know how to be exactly where they will get in the way, but are too damn cute doing it to get shooed away …)

  12. hairball_of_hope says:

    Mentor, I give up. What is triggering the spam-trap on my posts? This one is using a different computer, different IP, different ISP, and no proxy. (In preview mode, I can see #12 and #13 awaiting moderation.)

    (… goes back to cussing the IT gods …)

    [As HOH has discovered, the blog has moved into “moderation” mode. Meaning that all comments will now be “moderated” before being actually posted.

    I won’t bore you with the reason for this at the moment, but it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. In the meantime this means that there may be a (very slight, I hope) delay between the time when you submit a comment and it appears on the blog.

    My goal is that this will not be too onerous. (In my defense I’ll point out that things have already been working this way for a little while now, apparently without any major disruptions.)

    Nonetheless, if things get too weird, please feel free to mention it. –Mentor]

  13. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    I think my not getting to see the New Yorker for a few more days is payback for getting my copy of AYMM last week. I’m midway through my second reading, and it’s making me very uncomfortable, which I love. Thinking about my own relationship with my mother, who gave up touching me when I was six weeks old. Apparently I didn’t like it, so she gave up early and often. The statement on motherhood that I always quote when thinking of my mother is when Lois lets slip that she has the maternal instincts of a doorknob. Yeah, but doorknobs open doors. ‘Nuff said.

    Lifetime achievement awards! Too soon, AB, too soon.

  14. Duncan says:

    I was in Chicago this weekend, for an old friend’s going away party before she moves to New York, and I completely forgot that Alison is now located there. I was walking past Unabridged Books on north Broadway, and there in the window was a copy of Are You My Mother?. The store, of course, was closed (it was late Saturday at the time), but I went back as soon as they opened and got one of the two remaining copies they had. Also an autobiography of a hijra published by Viking India. That helped to make the trip memorable!

    I read RUMM all that day, finishing it while lying on a friend’s couch (appropriately enough) where I was sleeping that night, and I’m going to have to read it again; it’s not as easy to grasp as Fun Home. But I’m very glad to have it.

  15. So dazzling. So exhausting. Yeah, no, that sounds seriously busy. So good to get the teaching and the piece for the New Yorker (!) in there. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Here’s to all of your beautiful honors, to grappling with imperfections, to the fruits of your labors and the labors themselves.

  16. Kate L says:

    The honors keep rolling in! 🙂 Hey, when I pose alone in my own home, people just think I’m eccentric! 🙁

  17. --MC says:

    Oh, hey! Thanks for the heads up about the NYer profile. Thankfully, the local store gets the issues a couple weeks late, so I have some time to anticipate it and haven’t missed it yet.

  18. […] Alison Bechdel posted hellzapoppin’. […]

  19. Ginjoint says:

    *blowing a raspberry at NLC*

    But hey! I DID get a copy of RUMM yesterday, at a Bunns n’ Noodle! I do have a copy on order at my local feminist bookstore, of course, so when I get that one I’ll give the BnN copy to a friend. BUT I HAD TO READ IT NOW, even if it meant supporting a big box.

    I ran home, lit a fire, and read and read. (Duncan, I’m glad you said something about RUMM not being quite as easy to grasp as Fun Home. So I’m not alone.) But, the book is stirring up so much for me. Now I need to go take the cat for a walk in his stroller (yes! I look like an idiot!) and finish the book in the park, because we got some nice weather back.

    And Duncan – I hope you weren’t up to mischief in Boystown late on a Saturday night! Actually, scratch that. I hope you managed your mischief quite nicely.

  20. Feminista says:

    Congratulations,Alison! You’re on a roll.

    Att: Blogistas in the Portland,OR metro area. AB is doing a reading of AYMM on May 12 @ 5 PM at the Bagdad (sic)Theatre. It’s sponsored by Powell’s,natch,and tix include the talk and a copy o’the book. Who wants to join me?

  21. Ginjoint says:

    O.K., done reading RUMM. *deep contented sigh*

    Alison, I like your mom.

  22. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Finished the second reading. Am musing on the idea of the false self and the real self. Shortly to start on the third reading. I like your mom too, and love the drawings of her as actor and her practicing “Liasons”.

  23. Ready2Agitate says:

    Hang in there, Alison. You’ve earned some relaxing woods time in VT later this summer. For now, hellzapoppin’ justabout says it all.

    Breathe. Write. Teach.

  24. Ready2Agitate says:

    oh, and we are all just so excited and happy for you, as we watch you sail away into more-n-more-famous-land….

  25. you people!

    I can hardly bear that you’re reading the book!

    I mean I’m very very glad, I’m just not quite ready.

    But please proceed!

  26. Eva says:

    Indeed, when every news outlet tells us AYMM isn’t due out until May, if I were going on that I wouldn’t be ready for references to my book, either.

    But take heart! We are your first and gentle readers.

    AYMM is a denser read, no question. But very satisfying, on a very deep level. I can only imagine how sweet it is to have your cat named after such an intelligent and deeply empathetic person such as Dr. Winnicot.

    Look at you! You’re even earning compliments on who you name your cat after!

    (Giggling into her key board and wondering off to see if the dead tree edition of the New Yorker has come yet…)

  27. hairball_of_hope says:


    Thanks. Your vigilance is always noted and always appreciated. I suppose it’s even more important to keep this blogspace safe as the PR from AYMM drives more traffic here, and perhaps some unwanted attention as well.

    Speaking of AYMM, what is the preferred acronym for it? I’ve seen AYMM and RUMM used here, the latter seeming too much like text message slang for my taste (although RUMM when spoken as one word does make for a nifty-sounding acronym, give me a RUMM and Coke). I guess I’m more of a language fuddy-duddy than I realize.

    One more item for our semper paratus Mentor: When will the blog events page be updated to include current AB shindigs?

    (… goes back to that moderated limbo between ‘Post’ and actually being able to see what I’ve written …)

  28. Pam says:

    The New York magazine piece is PDFd, printed, and added to the collection. My husband was dispatched to pick up the New Yorker on the way home last night. Two copies of AYMM on order with Medusa.com, one for me and one for my daughter, to arrive on May 1st, to make sure I have them before the Philadelphia reading. Judging from the sample page in the New Yorker, this is going to be one intense read. Alison, I sent you the real story behind the Sunbeam girl a while back, and knew you would be much too busy to reply. But do get back to me some time if it got lost in the shuffle, and I’ll resend it.

  29. Minnie says:

    The book looks and feels very beautiful and sturdy. The heft is perfect. The cover art includes a mirror, reflective enough that I can see my unfocused, lens-free image when I look into it. The sheets feel smooth and thick. The narrative, in text and balloon, the color, the drawings! All are a joy to the senses.

    The tales are fascinating – compelling and profound. And through them, I’m seeing aspects of myself I was unaware of. I’m almost holding my breath wondering what new sea this has set me on. I’m 3/4 through the book. Thank you, thank you, Ms. Bechdel.

    Wow. it gets deeper. Just read the next 4 pages.

    “Are you my mother?” slips into my purse, as this grateful ancient reader now has to get to work. My mind is tumbling with new thoughts, which I hope will offset my lack of sleep (and after I promised myself I’d only read a few pages)!

  30. Kate L says:

    Off-Topic: The Vatican has ordered an inquiry into the largest organization of American nuns. Something about their “radical feminist” teachings. Why, those nuns even use words like “patriarchy”! I thought that everybody said “hegemony” these days, but apparently, attacking patriarchy is “incompatible with Catholic teachings”. I’m sure that the nun who taught me my first earth science course would never, ever, do anything so radical. Of course, she and another nun who taught at my school have since left the convent and now run a bookstore…

  31. Mac Guy says:

    BOOK!!! I haven’t been checking the blog regularly for more than a year now. 🙁 What a great surprise though! I immediately ran to get my purse and ordered a copy. My wife and I will be so excited to read it! Congratulations, Alison. ( Now when is your next book coming out? ;-P )

  32. Ginjoint says:

    Gaaah, I hate to think that I’ve added to your stress level, Alison! But as Eva said, we’re on your side. Recall, we are your Greek chorus! (Why am I using so many exclamation points lately?! Because I am excited about the book, and much more importantly, excited for you! Okay, I’ll stop now!)

    Whew. I read the New Yorker piece last night, and started my second reading of RUMM. There’s so much to absorb and ponder and deconstruct. (Hey, my favorite things to do! Oops, sorry, exclamation point.) As an adopted person who was in foster care, and who has found my birth family, both RUMM and Winnicott’s work are exposing me to ideas that will take some time to dissect.

    Also – Hairball, I’m right behind you on the dislike for text message slang. But “RUMM” struck a chord in me, for some reason. I’m not sure why. Because it’s easy to pronounce as an actual word, and therefore in my head when I see it on screen? (My mind doesn’t do a tiny trip over it, the way it does for most acronyms.) Or, I confess, maybe it’s because RUMM connotes a familiarity, a pet name for this work that we watched Alison struggle through over several years. I’m not sure. But if the majority of language lovers here decide against RUMM, I’ll go with AYMM.

  33. Kate L says:


  34. Alex K says:

    @Ginjoint: **strikes parchment with wand and watches record of Duncan’s sorties disappear, nodding in appreciation to GJ**

    The dead-tree NEW YORKER is here. As a subscriber, I had read the Profile on-line; more satisfying to hold the magazine, to leaf rather than to sidle from page to page.

    I envy you Norteamericanas / -os who can hold in your hands and savour RUMM.

  35. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    I read the New Yorker piece once! Now I have to read it again, which means, putting AYMM down so that I can take up the NYer again, and gazing longingly at The Ambassadors, which has been on hold since AYMM arrived. By the way, has anybody pointed you at The Master, by Colm Toibin? Amazing novel about Henry James and his various homoerotic attachments and his various neuroses and novels and his various selves and their interaction with other people. You should take a look as part of your extensive research!

    What I love about your drawing in the NYer is that Donald appears in it in many guises, always looking adorable. And you put your bird feeder in the picture!

    I am so happy about this glut of ABness that I just don’t know what to do, so I had some fried oysters for dinner.

    And I looked up the true self and the false self and accepted that the false self is the only way I can deal with my mother, and it’s served me well.

    Thank you, Alison!

  36. Ginjoint says:

    I just curled up in bed and was flipping through RUMM, when I saw a panel that included a present-day image of your mother. My mind played a trick on me.

    I thought it was an image of Sydney.
    Sydney Krustofsky.

    The way you draw them, they…they look very similar.
    What, you expect me to believe in meaningless coincidence after reading this book?

  37. Anonymous says:

    As for dense, difficult autobiographical theory–try reading it out loud. Read it with a friend. Trade off as you are reading, and read it dramatically. Make sure you Vogue as you do it.

    This helps a lot with dense theory–it actually can be more conversational than it first seems, and sometimes (like Thoreau–whom everyone in my history class thought was very small mouthed but whom I found hysterically funny) there are little moments of humor one might miss if one did not play with the text.

    If you are reading the dense, difficult autobiographical theory silently to yourself in a studious serious student voice–you may lull yourself to sleep.

    Seriously–read it out loud. Read it with a friend. Talk about it as you read it–theory can be played with just like anything else. The text is yours to make or remake as you wish–not a boring lecture that you must muddle through.

    If you read any Derrida–read it in a Betty Boop voice. Or Olive Oyl. But seriously, it will help.

  38. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Minnie (#29)

    One of the posts that got hung up in spamtrap-limbo land (and that Mentor deleted as one of my attempts to figure out what was holding up my posts) was about the current AIGA book design exhibit in NYC.

    So here’s the info again, in case AB is still in the city and wanders a few blocks north up 5th Ave from the Triangle awards at the New School.

    After I wandered out of Bunns & Noodles on 18th St. the other day, I headed north on 5th Ave and found the AIGA exhibit “Book,” which showed off the “50 Books/50 Covers” book design competition. The books were released in 2010, I hope AYMM will be entered into the 2013 competition, covering books released in 2012. The exhibit is at the AIGA, 164 5th Ave between W.21St and W.22 St.

    (… goes back to hoping her post leaps over the limbo stick …)

  39. Kate L says:

    It tickles me that A.B. and I are currently both teaching the Next Generation of Americas’ youth! 🙂 As for any fear of public speaking, just think to yourself what I tell myself in those gut-wrenching moments before its showtime: Always remember that your audience is just as afraid of you as you are of them! You’re welcome! 🙂

  40. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ginjoint (#37)

    On my to-do list this weekend is to try and snag at least one copy of AYMM (preferably two, I plan on giving one as a gift). Hopefully Three Lives will have it in stock.

    Not sure when I can actually start reading (and rereading) it, a class I’m taking right now is just sucking the life out of my braincells and every last bit of reading time in my schedule.

    I know I won’t be able to put it down once I start, and it will be the source of much self-examination of my relationship with my mother (a very short one because she died when I was young), and of my relationships in general. At least AYMM will be far less expensive than the many years of analysis I’ve had.

    I chuckled at your mangling of Sydney’s last name, a long-running gag in DTWOF. It’s Krukowski.

    Perhaps I noticed because my last name usually gets misspelled and often mispronounced, and I’m sensitive to the problem. It’s that self-identity thing.

    One positive about being the rare female in my work (and having the oft-misspelled last name) is that many people refer to me simply by my first name, and everyone knows who they’re talking about. Sort of like Cher, Madonna. So I’m famous, or at times, infamous.

    (… goes back to a another day too nice to be cooped up in the cube farm …)

  41. Ginjoint says:

    For the love of Pete I can’t believe I did that. Both as a longtime DTWOF fan, and as someone with an unusual first and last name – both tricky to spell to boot. I should be more attentive to that. I blame the nasty sinus headache I’ve been dealing with for the last two days.

    Yet, of course, I still bow my head in Gay Shame. (I hope that’s reclaimed my DTWOF cred.)

  42. Andrew B says:

    Some random thoughts. Not socially approved or terribly important, but spontaneous…

    When I read Fun Home, I found myself hoping that Helen Bechdel had met some easygoing guy to cook dinner with and keep her entertained; so I was glad to discover that Bob exists. (I told you: not terribly important.)

    People who have finished AYMM (especially NLC, 6) may enjoy this Charles Addams cartoon. (Look carefully at about the fifth reflection in.)

    Alison, it’s harder than hell to stay ahead of a group of bright kids when you’re also seeing the material for the first time. You have my sympathy. I hope you can spread things out a little more when your next book comes out, instead of having to push through this avalanche.

    I like the New Yorker writer’s description of Helen Bechdel’s outfit: “a smartly tailored pin-striped suit and a fedora”. Kinda butch. There’s no way to know for sure, but I can’t help wondering if Alison has encouraged Helen Bechdel to be more open to playing with gender roles than she otherwise would have been. Sort of like I can’t picture Helen Bechdel listening to metal without John, but maybe deeper. Not that Alison would have explicitly told her mother to do that (which surely would have backfired), but just that her forthright and open existence might have had an effect.

  43. makky says:

    Geez Ginjoint, I thought you were just being funny. Consciously being funny. Hey, does anybody want to give their opinion on I believe Helen B’s description of RUMM’s (I quite like “RUMM”, wonder if ol AB has an opinion) as a meta-book? What does that mean? That this is a book about Alison’s Allisons?

  44. Ginjoint says:

    Y’know, Makky, I thought of claiming exactly that – “It was a joke!” But for whatever reason, I decided to be honest. Perhaps I’m being inspired by RUMM? You asked about meta – speaking for myself, meta is like porno. Hard to define, but I know it when I see it. But here, Urban Dictionary has a good example:

    “So I just saw this film about these people making a movie, and the movie they were making was about the film industry…”
    “Dude, that’s so meta. Stop before my brain explodes.”

    Hope that helps.

    Andrew, that Addams cartoon fuh-REAKED me OUT.

  45. Ginjoint says:

    I just remembered that Krustofski is Krusty the Klown’s last name.

    So I took the last name of one cartoon character and applied it to another. Discern from this what you will.

  46. makky says:

    Ginjoint, it’s even funnier that it was an honest mistake. And yeah… i think I get the “meta” but it’s not easy to put it in words. There is an infinity aspect.

  47. freyakat says:

    @Hairball #41,

    In the event that Three Lives & Company is not yet selling AYMM, you can check the Strand, which as far
    as I know still has copies (that are not review copies) on the second floor with the graphic novels.

  48. Andi says:

    Alison, I completely get how you feel. Haven’t had time to write for weeks either – been crazy with house building and work – and I feel itchy and incomplete.

    I guess we could call it WDD – Writing Deficit Disorder. Yeeks! On one hand we’re fortunate that we have something to write about; on the other, a bit cursed with the need to constantly express thoughts, etc. The paradox of a creative life, I guess.

    Hang in there and hold on to the tail of that tiger that is The Busy Life! – Andi

  49. Kate L says:

    Andrew, Ginjoint. Yes, the hall of mirrors effect always has me wondering about multi-universe theory, and if, looking far enough into the reflections, we’ll catch sight of our alternate selves. And, the diffraction effect with a cardboard board with a central slit in front of a slide projector is supposedly proof of other you’s, with other projectors, doing the same experiment at the same time. And, if the universe is vast enough, eventually there is a point far beyond the observable edge of the universe where every atom of our world is duplicated, including ourselves, just by statistical probability. Anyway, whenever I look into a bank of mirrors, I keep hoping one of the reflections will do that old Marx Brothers routine

  50. NLC says:

    Kate L #50:

    If you’ve never scene it, there’s an episode on the “I Love Lucy” show in which Lucy and Harpo re-enacted the mirror scene: [CLICK HERE].

  51. hairball_of_hope says:

    re: meta

    A few years ago, when I used the word meta in a therapy session, I had to explain it to my therapist, she had no idea what it meant.

    A year or two after that, she was freely using meta in her questions. I should have sent her a bill, or at least negotiated a discount.

    (… goes back to her aromatic tea, hoping to clear her sinuses …)

  52. cybercita says:

    I bought a copy last night. Apparently NYC bookstores aren’t aware that the book hasn’t been published yet.

    I’m reading it quickly on the first go to get the story out of the way and then am planning to go through more slowly and savor the visuals. I love the page with the photos of you and your mom when you’re a baby.

  53. H.S. says:

    Is a reproduction of that New Yorker illustration of your office available anywhere, Alison?? Loved it.

  54. NLC says:


    On closer observation I see that the handset-and-wire labelled “prop” in the picture at the top of this posting also appears in the sequence of frames that I mentioned in #6. Cool.

    (And for those who’ve had a chance to read RUMM, I suppose it’d be pushing things a little to note that “Liaisons” is an anagram for “Is Alison”?)

  55. Meg Wallace says:

    You so rock.

    I *loved* seeing the article in the New Yorker; it made me utterly happy. So does all the rest of the fame and glory being heaped upon your head.

    thanks, Alison – you’ve been a consistent joy in my life and appreciated more than you will ever know.

    the once and former copy goddess,


  56. Ginjoint says:

    Cool. I just saw that Alison is going to be doing a book signing on May 16th for Women & Children First. I’m having surgery on the 7th (moar boob reconstruction! MOAR, I say!), but by the 16th I should be ready to go. If I end up having to have a drain, however, I make NO promises that I won’t whip it out to show you just for the freak factor. I loves me some awkward moments.

  57. Kaity says:

    Hi there,

    I tried to email you at dykestowatchoutfor.com but
    gmail says that address doesn’t work. I’m interested in buying Fun Home artwork. Could you email me back?



  58. Kate L says:

    Colorado College is in Colorado Springs. A.B. must have flown over Smallville to get to the Graphic Novel symposium held there! Thank goodness I always wave to every plane passing overhead! 🙂 Ginjoint… I saw my physician recently, and she was talking about boob reconstruction. 🙁

  59. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ginjoint (#57)

    Good luck with your upcoming boob overhaul. Do you get a frequent-surgery discount? It’s the least they could do for such a regular customer. Maybe they could throw in a toaster oven. Or considering that you’ve probably paid off their medical school student loans, perhaps a Keurig coffee pot with a year’s supply of coffee K-cups. And a set of Ginsu steak knives.

    (… goes back to sipping her tea on a rainy dreary day …)

  60. Ginjoint says:

    What? Why? I didn’t know you’d had boob cancer. Or is this a joke I’m not getting?

  61. Kate L says:

    No joke. No cancer, but my physician is convinced I’d be happier augmented. Augmented. Isn’t that what Khan and his followers were, augmented humans? Also… Ginjoint, are you facing the Big C? 🙁

  62. Ginjoint says:

    Oops, my comment at 61 was meant for Kate.

    Yeah, hairball, it’s been a long road. Unfortunately, I originally went to a plastic surgeon who didn’t do a very good job – my tits look like cauliflower. You know it’s bad when even my oncologist told me he’d help me find a new surgeon – you know how docs don’t like to badmouth each other (to patients, anyway). Hopefully this new doc will git ‘er done. I wish we were having the rain that the entire eastern seaboard is getting. I love rain.

  63. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ginjoint (#63)

    Cauliflower? I thought that was reserved for ears. I hope this surgeon picks some ripe mangoes for you. 😉

    (… goes back to her luscious fruit dreams, wondering if papayas would be better than mangoes …)

  64. Kate L says:

    Ginjoint… what hairball said! Oh, baby! 🙂

  65. Andrew B says:

    Makky, I think at least part of what Helen Bechdel meant by calling AYMM a “metabook” is that it’s about itself — specifically about its own creation. (Obviously that’s not all it’s about.)

    Kate, time to find a new doc maybe?

    GJ, inadequately, y’know, best of luck with all that.

    Finally, in a meta spirit, I can’t resist pointing people to today’s xkcd.

  66. Kate L says:

    Andrew B. … well, you haven’t seen me. There’s a reason why my doctor and I were talking about me becoming a (somewhat-) augmented human…

  67. NLC says:

    Sspeaking of doctors and RUMM…

    I just got back from a doctor’s appointment. While waiting I started nosing though their pile of magazines. and –unlike usual waiting-room fare of issues from 1997– lo and behold they actually had the new issue of The New Yorker. (Yes that one!)

    I had just picked it up when the doctor came out to walk me back to the inner-offices for my appointment[!!] and I asked her if she’d mind if I borrowed the issue to copy an article (and brought it back later). Not only did she not mind, but she actually offered to copy the article to save me the hassle –which she did herself[!!!] after my appointment.

    (…and it goes without saying, that her skills –even beyond those magazine-related– are wonderful.)

    So, all told, if anyone is thinking of trading up doctor-wise, I know a gem I can recommend.

  68. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Ginjoint, not only breast cancer, but botched reconstruction? Was the surgeon a Repuglican? (War on women and all that.) Here’s to mangoes over cauliflowers.

    I have lost count of the number of times I have read AYMM and the NYer article. I have got to get a LIFE.

  69. Kate L says:

    Hey, this mother theme (meme?) is catching! I had a long, detailed dream about my late mother last night.

  70. Andrew B says:

    NLC, 55, you might be on to something with that anagram. I’ve been reading a little Winnicott. He makes a distinction between being and doing. If we change the anagram to “Alison is”, then there is a notable contrast with the song at the bottom of page 211. “Alison is/Mother acts” would be significant in Winnicott’s theories.

    I’m not going to try to explain this further because (1) I’m uncomfortable with some of what Winnicott seems to say and (2) I’m not all that sure that I understand it correctly. I’m looking at Playing and Reality, pp. 79-84. (That’s the end of chapter 5, if anybody has an edition with a different pagination.)

  71. Alex K says:


    Mothers can NOT always mean it for the best with their sprogs. Truly.

    Male children of single mothers — dyke or straight, so I understand — are supposed to yearn toward a man. Oh, the yearning of Jeanette Winterson, who in her child-life had a woman but no mother.

  72. makky says:

    Andrew B, yes, I’ll go with that. Boy, it would fun to see/or hear an interview with Alison and Helen. Don’t think that will happen. But I can dream.

  73. judybusy says:

    Ginjoint, I will add my good wishes for a better outcome! Cauliflower? WTH?!

  74. Ready2Agitate says:

    I’ve been reading 2 chapters, and then re-reading those same 2 chapters more slowly. And hence. It threw me for a loop at first, even though I was expecting it, but now I’m comfortably immersed and digging it. (I was saddened/moved all over again by the tribute to Adrienne Rich – “may her memory be a blessing”) I, too, saw Sydney. And… Harriet?

    Too many people are sending me the url for the NY’er article, even tho’ it’s sitting downstairs in a pile of stuff on the table including lots of Sandra Boynton board books (for those who’ve lost track, I am now, at age 46, the adoptive mama to a newborn baby agitator who is now 10-months old).

    Being a new mom has thrown my own mother stuff into relief. (Well-timed, AB.) Her reaction to MY baby has me wondering – was that her reaction to HER babies? And hence.

    It’s heartening to know that others have been in therapy for their entire adult lives. Confession: I’ve been bringing AYMM (sorry RUMM’inators) to therapy and reading aloud certain parts. (Only I don’t remember having ever quite used the word “breakthrough”… I’m teasing you, AB :-).)

    Ginjoint, dang, that is very unfair. Hugs to you, girl.

  75. Eva says:

    R2A – I didn’t bring AYMM to therapy but did recommend it to my therapist because I knew he’d appreciate the homage to Winnicott. I also mentioned it’s a great a thoroughly absorbing read as well, 🙂

  76. NLC says:

    OK, here’s a random question.

    When I first read FH I was quite taken with the use of the “wash” color; i.e. the monochrome “tint” that was used throughout the book, green in FH and red in RUMM [[that’s OK R2A#75 and other AYMM’iable folks; no offense taken]].

    There’s the obvious point that the wash gives more “body” to the images –i.e. its use removes the books from being simply B&W or grayscale. And although the actual coloring (the “hue”) is consistent throughout, there’s clearly a lot of texture, and no doubt subtle shades of meaning, added by the light-to-dark “shading” of the single color throughout the book and in different contexts (sounds like there’s a master’s thesis buried in here some where…)

    But it’s notable that the colors change so boldly between the books. Again there’s the obvious point that the change from green to red helps distinguish the book. But there seems to be more than that.

    I’m not sure there’s a real question here, but the closest I can come to it is by asking why green? Why red?

  77. Andrew B says:

    Several things…

    It appears that Alison will be at the Barnes and Noble at 2289 Broadway (NYC) next Tuesday, May 1. She’ll be at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA, the following night, in what looks like a ticketed event. Those dates are now both less than a week away. She will also be at the Toronto and San Diego Cons later in the year. See here. I have no special knowledge of this. I’ve just been googling. Please don’t take my word for anything about events — call the venues.

    Has anyone heard anything about a western MA/southern VT appearance? (Southern NH would also work but I don’t think she has any NH events.)

    NLC, interesting question. Some associations. Blue/green: water, including rain. Red: makeup, especially blush; blood and menstrual flow. What else? I want to hear what others think.

  78. NLC says:

    Andrew B#78:

    I see that the “Events” page above now has a line “Are You My Mother? book tour, May 2012”, but alas, at present, no additional information.

    As far as anything here in god’s own country, a quick tour of the “Events” calendars of the usual suspects (Northfield books in Manchester, Misty Valley in Chester, Toadstool (various NH), Broadside in Northhamptom, MA, Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro [note AB has read at the last two in the past]) turns up no hits.

    (I suppose the fallback option is, given the reading in Cambridge on May 1st, if we assume that AB will making a quick trip back to Northern Vermont while in the area, we could set up observation posts along the major highways, waylay her car, and then lure her to Toadstool with promises of a generous store of bacon. Are you up for it?)

  79. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    NLC, are you a Toadster too? We should all get together for lunch or something and hope that the accumulated fan magnetism brings AB to us.

  80. Dr. Empirical says:

    Okay, roll call! Who is planning to attend Alison’s talk in Philadelphia next Thursday? And who wants to meet for drinks around the corner afterward?

  81. Alex K says:

    @R2A / 75 — your post made me smile with happiness.

    I hope that the agitator / agitatrix does you proud.

  82. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Andrew B (#78)

    Thanks for that info. For NYCers, the Bunns & Noodle is at W.82nd St and Broadway. Shame H&H Bagels is closed, guess I’ll have to get some pre-talk munchies at Zabar’s. Or perhaps schlep up a few blocks to Saigon Grill for a real meal.

    (… goes back to delightful anticipation …)

  83. Ready2Agitate says:

    Cantabridgians/Bostonians, see you at the Brattle Th. next Wed. 6pm?

  84. Mentor says:

    [Not a live appearance, but folks might be interested in this:

    The Afterword, which appears in the Slate daily podcast feed every other Thursday, features interviews with the authors of new nonfiction books. The next discussion, available on May 10, will be with graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, author of Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama.

    Snippet from [HERE] –Mentor]

  85. Eva says:

    Booked at Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT June 26(probably 7pm or so). Perhaps Southern VT & NH will be close by, either before or after? Let’s hope!


  86. Eva says:

    (posting sans link so escape moderation purgatory…)

    Booked at Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT June 26(probably 7pm or so). Perhaps Southern VT & NH will be close by, either before or after? Let’s hope!

  87. Mentor says:

    [If you hadn’t noticed, a bunch of items have appeared on the “Events” page-link above associated with the book-tour for “Are You My Mother”.

    Looks like a pretty busy couple of weeks coming up for AB. –Mentor]

  88. NLC says:


    Talks/appearances in 12 cities, in 9 states, in 2 countries, on 2-1/2 coasts in 12 days…

    Good grief…

    (On a related note, I see that RUMM has broken 200 in the sales-ranking on Amazon. Not too bad considering they list the book as being released next Tues.)

  89. AuntSoozie says:

    I’ll be there Dr E. Bringing my daughter and my partner. And just got email confirmation from Powell’s that my book was shipped!!!!

  90. hairball_of_hope says:

    I picked up my two copies of AYMM from Three Lives and Co yesterday, so I’m all set for AB on Tuesday.

    (… goes back to her self-discipline of not even opening AYMM until she finishes exams next week. …)

  91. hairball_of_hope says:

    Totally off-topic…

    Yesterday I happened to read a review of the Met Opera’s new Ring cycle in the NY Post, our local Murdoch right-wing pedestrian rag.

    I did think it a bit odd that the Post’s arts section even reviewed opera, given what I assumed to be their target audience.

    If you’ve ever wondered what sort of folks read Murdoch tabloids, this review succinctly erases all doubts and confirms your worst imaginings.

    After a quick review of Das Rheingold which mainly covered the special effects, the reviewer gave the CliffNotes version of the rest of the Ring story.

    Quoting from the review:

    “Die Walküre” – Baritone Bryn Terfel, slimmed down by a good 30 pounds since last season, stars as the god Wotan, who schemes to prevent Alberich from regaining the ring. Musical highlight: the “Ride of the Valkyries,” even more galvanizing in context than it was in the movie “Apocalypse Now.”

    “Siegfried” – In the title role as Wotan’s heroic grandson, tenor Jay Hunter Morris forges a magic sword, slays a dragon and braves a wall of fire to wake up the sleeping Valkyrie, Brunnhilde. That last part is sung by soprano Deborah Voigt, who sports a winged helmet just like the one Bugs Bunny wore in “What’s Opera, Doc?”

    “Götterdämmerung” – Lepage’s visuals turn repetitive and literal in this tragic finale, but Wagner’s score carries the show with the heartbreaking “Funeral March” for the slain Siegfried.

    This is likely the first time that an opera review included a comparison to Bugs Bunny, and it was a favorable one, to boot. How did Anna Russell miss that?

    (… goes back to channeling Anna Russell, “I’m not making this up, you know.” …)

  92. Feminista says:

    @R2a: Good to hear from you. So happy that I got to meet you and Therry (w/o St.Jerome)last Oct.in Beantown.

    And looking forward to seeing Jain for AB’s reading in Portland on 5/12.

    What’s next– a book named Are you my Grandma? :-)(My granddaughter Giselle just turned 3,and her brother Joaquin,4.5,will start kindergarden in fall 2012.)

  93. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Feminista (#93)

    Reportedly, AB’s next book will be on the James clan (Henry, William, Alice).

    No word on what she’ll be writing about after that, but if her theme of exploring creative dysfunctional families holds, I’ll wager the Huxleys are among the candidates.

    (… goes back to digging relevant companion books to AYMM out of the archives …)

  94. Pam says:

    An interview with Alison by Maud Newton, Barnes and Noble review, on salon.com:
    Click here.

  95. Renee S. says:

    I posted something last week, but was “awaiting moderation.” Still don’t see it, Mentor. What’s up?

    [Not sure. There doesn’t seem to be any thing in the “Awaiting Moderation” queue. (Approval isn’t always instantaneous, but it’s never more than a couple or, at most, a handful of hours.) Is it possible to re-post? –Mentor]

  96. MetaColor says:

    @NLC (#77): Compare the red color wash to the color of the sofa in the photo above. Give a whole new meaning to “on the couch.”