Friday, June 8, 2012

Quick Review

Are You My Mother?: A Comic DramaAre You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bechdel's earlier graphic memoir, Fun Home, was an unexpected revelation; deeply felt, funny, wittily drawn and smartly written. At the center of that book though was the enigma of her father's death and the secret history of his marriage and his sexuality. Fun Home is a brilliant book.

At the center of this second memoir, not so much a sequel as an addendum, there is only... what? Therapy? Not so fascinating. Still felt, and occasionally funny, still wittily drawn, as always now with Bechdel -- a really gifted cartoonist -- but, again, this time, the story? Not so interesting. Really, in the main, rather amazingly dull.

The most interesting stuff in the book is all autobiographical detail that should be at least a little familiar to fans of Bechdel's long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For: and by that I mean mostly girlfriends. On the subject of her own romantic and domestic misadventures, Bechdel is a practiced and proficient comedian. All her girlfriends, ever, are worth the ink. And when she is telling the story of her apprenticeship as an artist, that's pretty wonderful stuff too.

Sadly though, none of that is quite the point this time. What is, is the author's difficult relationship with her mother. Oh. See, at least as described here, that one adjective -- "difficult" -- does not so much define what obviously is almost always an incredibly complex relationship, but difficult is about all there is to it here; no mystery, not much happening dramatically, not much... period. No matter how much all this matters to Bechdel, it can't much matter narratively to anyone not her. (Perhaps the only thing less inherently interesting than using autobiography as a therapeutic exercise would be actually describing therapy. She does that here too. Oh my.)

I can't say I regret this book -- Bechdel is too accomplished an artist, and too much a favorite of mine for me not to read -- but I can't really recommend this book either.

Hope mother and daughter are doing well.

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