Friday, July 30, 2010

Fun Home - Review II

Miranda already reviewed Fun Home.
I loved this book. I've not been a graphic novel (or comics) reader, aside from the odd Doonesbury, but this was so accessible. The drawings add so much nuance to an emotionally heavy story.

Fun Home feels like a cathartic exercise Bechdel went through in order to reconcile her complicated relationship with her father. Alison Bechdel is the renowned author of the comic (and website) "Dykes to Watch Out For". The story paints the disconnect between Bechdel's 70's/80's awareness and openness about her sexuality against her father's lifelong secrecy surrounding his own homosexuality.

You feel for Bechdel, she's so obviously torn between this "otherness" she and her father share, this common experience and shared heritage and the cold reality that her father was a philandering husband and a distant parent. She wants to connect with her father, and does in some ways, but she cannot escape the heartbreak, the lifetime of disappointment he put her mother through.

And then he dies. Bechdel never resolves these feelings about her father. He's gone, and she's young, though she seems older than her years in the context of the story.

As for the medium, I found one aspect particularly effective. In various chapters, Bechdel revisits some of the same scenes and events. In some cases we're shown the same scene, or room or character from a different angle, we get a more complete visual. In others Bechdel uses the same frame, the same graphic and caption, but the context gives us deeper insight. In both cases we are given a second chance to experience the event and it gives these episodes from Bechdel's life so much weight. You feel all the conflicting emotions, the history that makes a moment personal. It's fantastic.

This is a powerful story, certainly worth reading and revisiting.

Just After Sunset by Stephen King: Willa

I picked up this collection of Stephen King short stories at a garage sale this morning, and I just finished the first story, Willa. I'm a King fan, and I don't think I've written about him here before. I have several of his books on my "To Read" shelves, including Under the Dome, which I've already read about 200 pages of, but since that's still only about 15% of the book, it may be some time before I've worked up the energy to tackle that again. A collection of short stories seems to be the perfect option for me right now, since I seem to have trouble finishing books that I start. I like to blame the fact that I work with books all day, five days a week (I'm a cataloger at a library), so when I get home I usually don't want to curl up with another book. I'd like to blame my job, but it's probably the fact that I'm lazy and have a short attention span. So it's nice to have some bite-size fiction to get me back into the swing of being a Reader again.

That being said, I was decidedly underwhelmed by Willa. It's not that it's badly written, it's just kind of obvious. (Spoilers) It's a story about a group of ghosts who don't know they're ghosts, and how two of them figure it out and try to convince the others. But, in the beginning, we're not supposed to know they're ghosts either. The thing is, if you've ever read King before, or really any type of supernatural/horror fiction... you know what's going on from page one. There's minimal conflict, and not really much going on. I just read a review though that says that Willa is the worst story of the bunch, and King himself admits as much. Hopefully the next story will live up to what I expect from Stephen King.

Reviews forthcoming: Going in Circles by Pamela Ribon, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, and Noises Off by Michael Frayn.