There, and there, and there, and back again

December 6th, 2012 | Uncategorized

I just had a particularly hectic month of travel, after a year of a lot of travel. I’m still trying to assimilate my recent sojourns, and thought perhaps this slide show with animated map insert would help me.

Now I’m trying to get back to work. There’s all kinds of stuff going on here. Some very kind, anonymous person from zip code 10003 sent me this beautiful Limited Edition Club copy of Colette’s novel Break of Day. It’s in a handsome slipcase and was published in 1982.


It’s numbered and signed by the illustrator, Françoise Gilot. In studying the colophon, I just learned that it was printed at Wild Carrot Letterpress in Hadley Massachusetts! Wow! That’s wild indeed. In 1985 I worked in the same building as Wild Carrot, in the food bank upstairs, where I basically did manual labor and on my breaks I’d peek with great longing through the Wild Carrot doorway and wish that I had a job there instead. They had these big old cast-iron printing presses and beautiful posters on the walls and trays and trays of type. Well, whoever gave me this book (and I have a possible idea of who it might be), thank you very much.

Are You My Mother? just made it onto the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year. And also Time put it on their list of the ten best nonfiction books of the year. That’s very cool. Another graphic work, Derf Backderf’s creepy My Friend Dahmer is on the nonfiction list, and Chris Ware’s gob-smacking Building Stories is on the fiction list. It’s cool to see so much graphic narrative on these lists.

(As I write this I’m watching an episode of Girls on HBO, the one where Hannah’s boyfriend Adam is hanging out with all the lesbians at a party. The actress who plays one of them, Tako, plays my college girlfriend in Fun Home the Musical. Her name is Roberta Colindrez, and she’s really great!)

Here’s a picture from the event I just did in Toronto. I was part of a panel in honor of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a psychoanalyst who died suddenly one year ago. She was just beginning to edit the collected works of Donald Winnicott. Her last book, Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children, was published posthumously this year. That’s Raffi, the children’s musician on the left. Elisabeth’s partner, Christine Dunbar in front, holding the book. Heather Weir, a Toronto psychiatrist, and the psychoanalyst and philosopher Donna Orange. And in front of me, Dominique Browning. Elisabeth was Dominique’s mentor since she was a student at Wesleyan.

Okay, one more thing. Check out Ellen Forney’s amazing new graphic memoir, Marbles, about living with bipolar disorder.

41 Responses to “There, and there, and there, and back again”

  1. Silvio says:

    A.O. Scott mentioned you in his film commentary today in the New York Times.

  2. Holy moly. That is head-spinning. Just watching the video spins the head. Amazing stuff, and so far afield. Plus, gorgeous anonymous gift and Hadley! And yay for all the honors.

  3. Fester Bestertester says:

    Bork Bork Borks To Watch Out For…

  4. Brigham says:

    Francoise GIlot who lived with Picasso, Paloma’s mother?

  5. Liesbeth says:

    Glad I got the chance to meet you at Gosh comics in London!!!! It was great!!!!!!

  6. nic h wales says:

    sorry…. fun home the musical????

    april already and im not done with christmas

  7. Anonymous says:

    Head spinning and enjoying the dizziness. Excellent slide show! Your powers of narration are fantastic, naturally, such a treat to get another dose of it via your perambulations!

  8. Kate L says:

    There, and Back Again? You know your ringlore well, my friend. I followed your travel summary with great interest, because just yesterday I was walking in the shopping district just off the Moo U campus, when I noticed a young woman eating ice cream next to the window of an ice cream store. She wore her black hair short, and in a buzz cut, wore black, plastic glasses and had on one of those Navy-type jackets with a collar, over a t-shirt and blue jeans. Her friend, also eating ice cream, could have been Holly, if Holly wore her hair longer. Naturally, I thought, “Hey, London and Paris one week, ice cream in Smallville the next”.

  9. Your video is wonderful. I loved standing up in the Eiffel Tower with all the lights lit. Can’t imagine seeing Colette’s grave. I would love to visit Canada. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Alex K says:

    Come back to London. Things are left for you to do and see here.

  11. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Okay, I know people tend to abuse terribly the word “random,” but I can in confidence say that the bottom picture is one of the most random assemblies of people I have ever seen, and it’s got me laughing. I was thinking “Alison and the Shake Your Sillies Out guy? Sure, why not?”

  12. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Oh, and another thing–I used portions of _Are You My Mother?_ to teach a unit of my Gender and Art class that focused in part on subject/object formations, and specifically this formation between daughters and mothers, and how this process of separation foments creativity. We looked at the pages where you rendered the photos of you as a baby with your mother, and the section on Winnicott and the “Piggie.” 🙂

    [I believe she was called “The PiggLe” –which I understand is a Britishism. –Mentor]

  13. Ben says:

    Great slide show. You’re giving me a touch of the ol’ wanderlust. I’d definitely want to see London and the UK…I have a friend doing her PhD at Birmingham.

    Even the Toronto pictures make me want to head back that way: I was there last summer for my friend’s wedding

  14. indigo says:

    I can’t be the only one here who wants to see the 4-panel laundromat strip 🙂

  15. lurkalot says:


    No, you’re not the only one.

  16. Lauren says:

    Can’t wait for the podcast of your conversation with Adam Phillips. I am a huge fan of your work, have been reading you for 25 years. It sounds like you are having a great time — you deserve it. Thank you for your books. I look forward to seeing what you do next.

  17. Andrew B says:

    Very belatedly, Alison, the slide show was a fun way to present that material. Thanks.

    Anyone who doesn’t already know about it, take a look at the wikipedia page for monkey puzzle tree. (I think it’s on wikipedia under the scientific name, but google “monkey puzzle tree” and you’ll find it.) That’s actually a tree Alison is standing in front of in the picture. The triangular scale-like things are leaves. Apparently they’re hard and kind of sharp, which is why the tree poses a puzzle for monkeys that want to climb it. I initially thought the branches must be some kind of decorative streamer or swag. I had no idea any such tree existed.

    Finally, just to confirm that I am batshit crazy, here’s something that somebody needs to hear about and unfortunately for you folks I was about to comment here when I found it. While looking for something else, I came across the following in the local college’s catalog: ‘In “Toilet,” noted sociologist Harvey Molotch and Lauren Noren bring together twelve essays by urbanists, historians and cultural analysts (among others) to shed light on the public restroom and how it reflects and sustains our cultural attitudes towards gender, class, and disability.’ The thing is, it looks genuinely interesting, including chapters on “Dirty spaces : separation, concealment, and shame in the public toilet”, “Pissing without pity : disability, gender and the public toilet”, and “Rest stop : Thai students get transsexual toilet”. And if you think about it, it ought to be interesting. Anyhow, I think Sydney may be working on something related.

  18. Kate L says:

    … Quantum indeterminance has caused the next seasons of Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad to become mixed together, as Stephen Colbert (eventually) explains

  19. Andrew B says:

    Blogjack, mostly, but thinking about “childism” right now… As Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western Civilization, “I think it would be a good idea”.

  20. Mentor says:

                    –What Issa Heard

    Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds
    singing sutras to this suffering world.

    I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,

    since we will always have a suffering world,
    we must also always have a song.

                    –David Budbill

    …for the children. –Mentor]

  21. Penny Jeannechild says:

    thanks for the Marbles rec. just terrific.

  22. Lurkalot says:

    @ mentor
    I wish for a sutra, a sura, a prayer that would cradle and comfort those parents, that community, all of us.

  23. Kate L says:

    I never thought I’d have all that much in common with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, but I, like him, have been awaiting gun control reform since the assassinations of the 1960’s. This time, it might just happen.

  24. Kate L says:

    The High Plains Blizzard of aught-12 blew thru Smallville overnight with 6 hours of blizzard conditions. It has already moved east of Kansas City, and should be in Chicago tonight. I’ve extrapolated its path and speed, and I estimate that at its current rate, it will reach the outskirts of Croydon by this time next week.

  25. Kate L says:

    Yeah, just kidding about Croydon. And, as the Unitarians say, Happy Christmahannahkwanzika! 🙂

  26. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Hey Deland! Good to see your smiling typeface in here again. Hope all’s well.

    Mentor, thank you for the Issa poem.

    Kate L., thanks for the Unitarian neologism.

    Everybody on this blog, Happy happy merry merry!

  27. Cathy says:

    One of my colleagues had a cool letter published this week in the “Washington Post”:

    I wish all of you a merry happy holy holly jolly whatever you are celebrating!

  28. Andrew B says:

    There are several 2013 events posted on the “Events” page. Alison will teach a week-long workshop on comics in Provincetown next summer! I have a feeling you might have to break your piggy bank for that one. Lots of other appearances, though. Check it out.

  29. Kate L says:

    Here’s a refreshing take from Laura Conaway of maddowblog about true blue, progressive Democrats out and about in Norman, Oklahoma (home of the University of Oklahoma). And, verily, they are unafraid.

  30. shadocat says:

    happy merry to everyone on this blog!

  31. Cathy says:

    Just found out my baby brother was proposed to by his boyfriend–and has accepted! Tad was born when I was 14 years old, and I and my sister pretty much raised him (our mother was battling depression, a failing marriage, financial strains, etc.). I offered Tad the use of MY wedding gown from when I was 23 years old (it actually looks a lot like Kate Middleton’s), but he declined with thanks. Then I said I looked forward to seeing which hideous bridesmaid dress he’d threaten to make me wear. They’re planning a quiet wedding in Paris. Gotta go practice my French now.

  32. Kate L says:

    Congratulations, Cathy! 🙂 And, here’s a story from today’s Huffington Post about the first women to wed since Maine’s ratification of the right to marry. Of course, I still remember The Onion’s story from a few years ago about mothers complaining that their gay daughters weren’t married yet!

  33. Andrew B says:

    Total blogjack… Some of you might be interested in these photos of Albanian “Sworn Virgins”. I haven’t checked into it, but I don’t think the photographer’s statement is 100% correct — I’m pretty sure becoming a Sworn Virgin is (or was) entirely voluntary, for one thing. Still, you might like the photos.

  34. Pam I says:

    First for 2013, how bout that me. Anyway – from graphic novels news of the world, one such has just won the biography Costa book award in the UK.

    “A graphic work has been named as the winner of the biography section in the 2012 Costa book awards – a first for the prestigious literary prize that also reached another significant milestone when women swept the board in the five categories.

    “Mary Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, which was illustrated by her husband Bryan, a veteran of the comic genre, won biography of the year while Hilary Mantel won the novel award for Bring Up the Bodies; Francesca Segal won first novel for The Innocents; Kathleen Jamie’s The Overhaul came first in poetry, and Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon was named children’s book of the year.”

    I squeezed in a plug for AB in the Comments.

  35. Kate L says:

    I just bought a pair of those snazzy black plastic eyeglass frames (think A.B. or Rachel Maddow) to go with my buzzcut. I feel young, again! 🙂

  36. Dr. Empirical says:

    Pam: I regularly buy anything by Bryan Talbot, but “Dotter…” somehow slipped by me. Having met the gentleman, it’s no surprise that his wife is also intelligent and creative. I’ll pick up their book at the first opportunity. Thanks!

  37. Kate L says:

    I hope this isn’t self-aggrandizing, but this month was my turn to write The Gay Agenda, the LGBT column in a local, progressive independent newspaper. I’m hoping that I was at least as clear as Jodie Foster at the Golden Globe Awards… HERE’s the link to my column!

  38. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#38)

    There is still hope for Smallville’s LGBT ordinance. Check out Vicco, KY (population 334), smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, which just passed one. Oh, and the mayor happens to be openly gay. Will wonders never cease?

    (… goes back to wondering when her own fair city will elect an openly gay mayor …)

  39. Minnie says:

    What a treat to see Françoise Gilot’s beautiful work (well, one of the silk-screens, anyway), rich with symbol, too.

    I love the story of your casting longing looks through the door of Wild Carrot, Ms. Bechdel.

    And what is that giant crystal-faceted aquamarine resting on the book? A weight? Specifically for that purpose? Beautiful.
    This website is a joy of hope and education. Thank you all.

  40. Irene says:

    Just for the record: Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père Lachaise is not sitting in a plexiglass box because of maintenance works. The tombstone had to be protected from tourists and fans who developed the strange habit to leave kiss marks on it – and the grease in lipstick corroded the sandstone…