Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

We were long overdue to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.  A veritable cornucopia of favorable reviews and academic essays have been written on this highly literary memoir about a father and daughter's experiences with sexual identity, loss, and companionship.  In the vein of the comic, here are some high-brow questions for you to consider:

1.  Alison Bechdel thanks her family for not “trying to stop her from writing this book.”  What effect do you think this had on the Bechdel family?  Why do you think Ms. Bechdel wrote it?

2.  The Bechdels are obviously an academic family, performing in plays and reading the classics.  Did you find the allusions to classic literature jarring?  

2b.  Alison writes in reaction to the allusions: "I employ these allusions to James and Fitzgerald not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms. And perhaps my cool aesthetic distance itself does more to convey the arctic climate of our family than any particular literary comparison."

3.  Did knowing the sexual identity confusion and emotional hardships that Alison’s father Bruce went through justify his actions or his demeanor?

4.  Do you think Bruce Bechdel committed suicide?  Why?

5.  Alison and her father were inversions of each other, opposites.  How did this affect their relationship early in life and later in life?

6.  Alison questions if her own coming out was one of the factors leading to her father’s suicide.  She was open in her sexuality, he was clearly closed.  Do you think this was the case?  What conflict would this have caused?

7.  People found Alison’s reaction to her father’s death inappropriate.  Why couldn’t she mourn properly?  What is proper mourning?

8.  Alison clearly used primary materials and even posed for each human drawing for each panel in the entire book.  What does this say about her creative process?

9.  Alison’s brush with OCD seemed to be the odd chapter out in the book.  Why was this part included?

10.  Did you find yourself asking “are people actually like this?”  Do you think the Bechdel family are incredibly unique?

11.  Bechdel is known for The Bechdel Test: a test that is used to “identify gender bias in fiction.  A work passes the test if it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.” Many films and works of literature do not pass the test.  Does Fun Home?

12.  The reality that Bruce Bechdel could have been accused and convicted of pedophilia and adultery seems to be glossed over.  Why?