The One with the Closeted Gay Funeral Director

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)

Oops, another 2017 read, in fact a September read… Why did it fall by the wayside, would you ask? Because September is not exactly the ideal period in the life of a working mother to pause and collect one’s thoughts. Especially when my brain was just recovering from the experience and was only able to form the words: “Awesome”, “Great” and “Is there more?” But those don’t really make a blog post.

I often take series out of order, but in that case immediately after I finished reading “Are you my mother?” I logged into my online library account to put a reservation for the first volume at the library. And it blew my mind, just as the first one did, but also in a different way.

Alison Bechdel is so intelligent, and funny, and snarky, and deep, and damn unlucky (or lucky, depending on how you see it). It’s bad enough that she grew up in a funeral home (hence the fun… home), that the atmosphere was gloomy and emotionally distant, that her father and mother didn’t have a really loving relationship, that her father was weird and lonely and strict and depressed all the time, but it’s even worse, in my book, after she became self-aware and could acknowledge her sexuality and be public about it, that her father died in difficult circumstances and that she understood finally that he was secretly gay all along. Wasn’t she lucky to have been born in an age when coming out was a possible option, when her father clearly didn’t see it that way?

This book circles around the layers of secrets that were wrapped around this family and this man so tight that the truth could never be out. It strips away layer upon layer, goes back and forth between periods of her life, as she could re-read her whole childhood with a new key of understanding that gave a new meaning to every incident (especially the bizarre circumstances of her father’s death, that could be an accident or a suicide). The book is not an easy read, not because of the heartbreak (which is real), not because of the psychological misery, but because it is intellectually challenging. There are many literary references (you don’t need to have read Joyce to understand it though), and a lot of Freudian material, and more than once you feel that she over-analyses some events of her life, but to me it was more fascinating than annoying.

I was told that there is a musical made out of this graphic memoir, which is perplexing to me as I cannot fathom how so many layers can be translated into songs and scenes, but I’m intrigued. Has anyone seen it?

 

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