Wednesday, February 26
Alison Bechdel's ground-breaking graphic memoirs, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) and Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama (2012) are remarkable examples of the river current that connects contemporary works (and contemporary lives) to the literary tradition. Whether writing about her father's probable suicide or her mother's life before the women's movement, Bechdel interlaces her memories with thoughtful explorations of the works of earlier writers. Her discussion of her own and her mother's journaling seems to naturally turn to consider Virginia Woolf's "dismissal of the soul" in her own journal, which ebbs into an imagined 1924 meeting between Woolf and psycholanalyst D. W. Winnicott, whose theories become an important touchstone for Bechdel's consideration of motherhood. In her two graphic memoirs, Bechdel's readings of a library's worth of authors--Camus, Joyce, Hemingway, Homer, James, Fitzgerald--blend seamlessly with her musings about her own life and the influence of her parents.
Originally the writer and artist of a self-syndicated comic strip, Bechdel has also drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney's, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Granta. Her first graphic memoir, Fun Home, was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine. Its success led Bechdel to devote herself full-time to memoir writing in 2008. She has also edited Best American Comics 2011 and is the recipient of the 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellowship.