Thursday, December 19, 2013

For Friday: Bechdel's Fun Home: The Demand of Autobiography


For tomorrow, read as much as you can of Fun Home, but I'm happy to let this spill over into Monday if need be.  That said, you can do the Fun Home response for Thursday's class--you don't need to finish the book to do it--or, you can turn in the response as late as Monday.  I'll accept questions posted on the blog as late as Monday as well. 

Fun Home is the first novel by Bechdel, who became known through her 'strip', Dykes to Watch Out For, which is a humorous, yet very insightful comic that documents the lifes, loves, and social drama of a small community of friends.  She worked on this strip for well over a decade (and might still be drawing it, I'm not sure), and her style advanced considerably until she arrived at the approachable, yet somewhat edgy style she employed in Fun Home.  Bechdel is also known for being quite 'literary' in her references and overall approach to the form--unlike Stitches, it is very word-oriented.  Her most recent book, Are You My Mother?, explores her relationship with her mother while weaving in other figures from the realms of literature and psychiatry. 

Here's a link to an excellent interview with Bechdel from The Comics Journal, where she claims,

"I always felt like there was something inherently autobiographical about cartooning, and that’s why there was so much of it. I still believe that. I haven’t exactly worked out my theory of why, but it does feel like it almost demands people to write autobiographies." 

This certainly seems to be true of the works in our class!  Why is this, I wonder...? 

Link: http://www.tcj.com/the-alison-bechdel-interview/

16 comments:

  1. Style of Writing
    Alison’s style of writing fuse prose, with complicated literary reference. Alison is telling the story to relate to other English aficionado’s so a lot of her jokes and alliterations were difficult to relate to. Alison as a person is extremely relatable and she portrays that through her words very well. To me this graphic novel could have just as well been a novel (Literature) rather than graphic novel. The way in which Bechdel writes is almost too wordy and puts me off as a reader because it reminds me of a classic English novelist attempting to explain the way something looks.

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  2. The scene that touched me the most occurs on pages 98 and 99, where Bechdel describes her relationship with her father as a type of mirror: “While I was trying to compensate for something unmanly in him…he was attempting to express something feminine through me.” I think this scene encapsulates the entirety of Bechdel and her father’s relationship, a strange and tragically touching dance between affection, repression, and jealousy. Their clothing is an extension of themselves, although placed on the wrong body, and represents their ideal self-image. Bechdel wanted to look like a man, and her father wanted the freedom to make love to one.

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  4. I love the way that this books is illustrated. It's very closed and real, although what makes it real is not its similarity to actual life. The drawings remind me of illustrated children's books. It is very detailed and every line and object is completed. I fell like the art work works well to give the reader the emotions the author was feeling. Everything was real, but at the same time framed and fake (in the sense that it was all set up) within her family. This detailed, real illustration works to fit the emotions the way the character saw everything. This gives the reader the overall feeling of detailed and real stories and emotions, but framed and fake happiness. I don't feel that these illustrations are uniquely suited to the story, but they do help to convey the accurate tone and emotion of the story. Without the words and images we wouldn't see the details we need to. Details about the character, like her father. Some images have no people instead just objects, such as a table or vase, which helps the reader see the characteristics of her father better. So the images help to convey the characteristics of the different personas as well.

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  5. The frames that I think are some of the important ones are page 44, when she has to look at the man lying on the table. She said that she had not seen a body that did not have clothing and was not already in the casket. This I think defines how she may look at her farther when the funeral comes around. Alison can be affected by her parents love for her when she tells them that she is gay. Could this image in her life changed the way she sees the male race? Or maybe it does not have a link at all. I know when my mother was in the funeral business seeing bodies for me was just like any other day but it took time for me to get to where I was not afraid of a corpse. Like I said above I do not favor this artwork in this book. It (I believe) shows too much. It made me uncomfortable and I was anticipating the next frame that may have some naked or just uncomfortable situation in it.

    -Loren Dunnam

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  6. 3. Basically, we only see one point of view throughout the entire tale. Sure, we get to see her talking with other people, but you hardly ever get to hear their side of her story. Instead of Alison finding out her father was gay directly from her father himself, she finds out through another person telling her over the phone and by looking up documents about her dad. The entire tale seems focused on indirect communications and discoveries. Her mother somehow automatically knew that Alison was lesbian at a young age, and bought her Gentleman’s clothing magazines. It takes Alison forever to find out for herself what she is, and she does so by looking catalogs and books from her school’s library.

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  7. Bechdel seems to be speaking to the reader as a friend and telling her story in pieces as she remembers it. Her perspectives in literature, past memories and recent developments are easily presented at once using the combination of pictures, words, and pictures of words that influenced the ideas and emotions of the author. For example, Bechdel is able to use little explanations with arrows pointing to the subject instead of forming descriptive sentences (pages 31, 60, 103). In a novel, this could only be done with a convoluted sea of text, and a film could not so casually convey the complex details. Consider the scene on pages 43-45; because of the cartoon illustrations that show her composed reaction and the straightforward reflections in the narration, her experience with a corpse is more randomly funny and clinical than dramatic and gory. As a novel or film, the characters struggles would seem melodramatic and the innuendos would be morbid.

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  8. 2. I believe that the story is written as a graphic novel simply because that is the medium in which the author felt most comfortable. The story could be depicted in a novel or a film, though I feel that it would lose its personal feel. We get to experience the story specifically from the author’s point of view and from many different angles at once. We see her family as she understood them and at the same time we see the young Bechdel as she saw herself: lacking of feminine attributes. The author’s depiction of herself as a young girl resembles that of a young boy, so much, in fact, that I forgot at times that she was in fact female.

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  9. The story is narrated by the main character in the book, Alison. Alison is a young
    person trying to make sense of her world. She talks about some of her struggles as an
    adolescent such as menstruating and deal with the death of her father. She also has to learn how to tell her friends and parents that she is a lesbian. It is refreshing to hear her
    point of view without the jaded view of others.
    Karnesa McGaha

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  10. The art in Fun Home is difficult to categorize. On instinct, I want to say that it is “sketchy” but if you look closely at it the lines are all finished and neatly connected which makes it more like line-art than a sketch. It's also very simplistic, almost cartoony which I feel is significant because it compliments the absurdity of Alison's relationship with her father. It actually reminds me of the kind of art you would find in certain types of children's books and pre-school cartoons like Junie B Jones or Arthur or something.

    - Mello

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  11. The story is told from the daughters Alison eyes of her father and how alike they really are. She tells his story the way she seen it, she explained his death and how he was into the same sex relationships. She also told her story in the novel as well and parts of her adolescent childhood. What she soon realizes she is more like him and it allows herself to find her true sense of identity as a person and sexuality.

    Tarra Christy

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  12. This story was written as a graphic novel because the author likes to draw. I personally did not think it worked well written in this form. The author often jumped around from one time to another which the illustrations did help to keep track of these jumps but I thought the author was used too many words going off on a tangent of what she thought of people which often lost me.

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  13. Lisa Edge-2. Why was this story written as a graphic novel? What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film? What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t? Again, be as specific as possible. Within this works there are illustrations where we see quite literally what Alison is reading. If she refers to a definition, her diary writings, a letter, or excerpt from a book we get a visual as well. I feel that it allows us to see into her world…to personalize more with her in a sense get closer to her, how she feels, or see’s what she is reading it as she is reading it. Through a graphic novel format she brings us into her world through imagery and visuals as she sees them in a way that she could not through words. Yes, we could visualize her story for ourselves but it is as if she wants us to see it her way which the graphic novel format allows her to do. A different genre would lose this feel and Alison would also lose some of the control to navigate us through her story both visually and with her writing. The illustrations and illustrations go together to tell the story one without the other takes away from the power of telling.

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  14. If this book was translated to a movie it would have to condense and cut details out to an already very detailed story. This story also changes from different times frames form when she was a kid to when she is an adult. This graphic novel was very word focused that it was more close to reading a written novel. However even still the pictures in the graphic novel did help you understand what time the story was currently talking about. This would cause the book/movie to be way too confusing.

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  15. The artwork of Fun House has a cartoony has some interesting qualitites that need mentioning. The artwork is cartoony but it does give the story a sense of realism, something that can be forgotten when reading a graphic novel. I think this is partly due to the fact Fun House has only three colors illustrating the entire story, making the pictures seem a bit drab. I mean to insinuate that the coloring of fun house reflects the atmosphere that the characters live in. The color is drab because the charaters are in semi-depressing situations. Bechdel takes the artwork into a unique field by not only taking thought boxes out of the panels (which seem to go through two diffrent stories, at times), but making some panel pictures passages from books and her own writings. This pushes the realism of the story further and further.

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  16. 1. The illustrations in Fun Home are mostly black, white, and blue. This nearly monochromatic style helps emphasize the lack of choice the narrator had in their setting. This is emphasized in the scene where she yells about hating pink and flowers and her Dad tells her “Tough Titty” she lives in a period house and also a “fun home” where everything is done and a certain way and there are rules about what the children can do. The drawings are very cartoon styled, but an adult cartoon. Something about the way the characters are depicted makes it clear that this is not a book for children. Perhaps it is because of how individualized the characters look as opposed to stereotypical or animalistic.

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