5.09.2012

A reading with Alison Bechdel


On Monday night Alison Bechdel came to Boswell Books, a lovely independent bookseller in Milwaukee, for a reading of her latest graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? I was introduced to Fun Home, her first novel, in an American Women's Writing class. We started with the traditional classics and progressed into contemporaries and then finished with Bechdel's Fun Home. I'm not sure I would have picked this one up on my own; it was my first graphic novel and at that point I didn't consider them "real" books. It turned out to be a longtime favorite that I lent to friends and family. I was quite excited about her new book and even more excited when I found out she was coming my way for a reading! My sister read Fun Home as well, so she joined me for the reading which was awesome since I normally go to these things on my own.

In person, Alison Bechdel is brilliant. She articulates herself so well and precisely that it's just a joy to hear her speak. Her love of books doesn't just come through in her work, rife with countless literary allusions. Prior to the reading, she was browsing the shelves of the bookstore. After she was introduced and before the reading began she discussed her book, telling us that the relationship with her mother was just one of the many strands of the book. It's also about the self and how we think about our own self. The book is preoccupied with Virginia Woolf, who makes an appearance as a character, and her connections between her diary, memoir and writing, and fiction writing. As a whole, Bechdel explains, the novel is internal, recursive, and interior.

When asked during the Q and A what her mother's reaction to the book was, Bechdel said her first response was, "Well, it coheres."

I didn't get any pictures of the actual reading, because no one else was taking pictures or even had their camera out and I didn't want to be that person. So the photo you see above is from a completely different reading at Politics and Prose in DC. But, you know, it's similar. I did manage to snap a stealth photo on my phone while waiting in line to get my book signed. Like the Eugenides reading, I was nervous to meet such a talented writer. I wasn't as nervous as I was for Eugenides, when I was literally shaking.





I'm about halfway through Are You My Mother? and while it's much different from Fun Home, in many ways it's also similar as it focuses on finding one's identity and looking back on the self. If you haven't read any Bechdel, I really recommend you get your hands on Fun Home! I really don't think you'll be disappointed.

22 comments:

  1. I'm in the middle of attempting to articulate my feelings about Are You My Mother? in review form at the moment. I got sent a copy from the publishers and was so excited I could barely talk for about a day :-p

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    1. You're lucky to have gotten a copy from the publishers! I'm making my way through it now - I think it's more complex than Fun Home, but in a good way.

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    2. I would agree with that, it's sort of less childhood focused as well if that makes sense? I loved it.

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  2. amazing -- I am so jealous!! I love author readings and one with Bechdel must have been amazing! When I got to see Emma Donoghue, I was so 'that person' and asked for a picture -- I just couldn't resist!

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    1. You should check if she is coming your way! I know she's doing a fairly large tour for this book. Also - I was that person with Jeffery Eugendies! I couldn't help myself :)

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  3. AHH! I bought my ticket for her yesterday! Along with Are You My Mother? AND Fun Home, because I was worried the library wouldn't get it in in time. So...now I have both of them. And I started Fun Home and I seriously love it as of the first 70 pages. She's SO intelligent and SO awesome and literary. Really, really looking forward. If she doesn't do a signing in Chicago I will pitch an internal, overly dramatic fit.

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    1. Yesssss! That's awesome I am so glad to hear you like it! I haven't suggested it to anyone who hasn't liked it a lot. GOOD STUFF ALICE! She is so bookish and literary, one of the many things I love about her. Enjoy yourself at the reading! I want to hear about it afterward.

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  4. Hooray for author signings! I'm not a fan of graphic novels BUT if you're passing Fun Home to all the people, I think I need to give it a try.

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    1. I didn't think I was a fan of graphic novels either until I read Fun Home :)

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  5. I think I need to get my hands on these books! Because like, the only graphic novel memoir I've read is Maus, and I LOVE it so much, and I just generally need to read more graphic novels! AND you say she's awesome so I trust you! :)

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    1. Yes I bet you would love this! Thanks for the trust, Laura :)

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  6. I read Fun Home for a class this semester and loved it, so I can't wait to read her newest book! So cool that you got your book signed!
    ~Sara
    sarastrauss.blogspot.com

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    1. I know I was very giddy about it!

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  7. Hmm..I hadn't heard of her before now. I'm not a fan of graphic novels either, but this sounds fun. Glad you had a good time!

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    1. She is fantastic. A lot of it is about her inner struggles to find her own identity and she uses her unique family dynamic growing up to sort of figure it out.

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  8. I love readings! I have Fun Home and was planning on reading it really quick before her reading here in CA tomorrow, but am actually going to the Craig Thomas one with my husband instead. Battling graphic novelists in SoCal!

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    1. Oooh Craig Thomas! I loved Blankets. You are lucky to have all these readings near you.

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  9. My first GN was Persepolis, and I was hooked. I read Fun Home a few years ago and was surprised by how incredibly dark it was. Stitches was actually very similar. Such an interesting way to tell this kind of story.

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    1. I haven't read Stictches - just searched it on Amazon and it sounds really interesting. I'll have to find it.

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  10. Fun Home was my first GN and I loved it. I'd love to see Bechdel speak, but it was great to hear that she is as lovely as I imagined. I'd be nervous meeting her too :-) I look forward to hearing your final thoughts on her new one.

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    1. Oh she is lovely! I always knew she was super intelligent, but I didn't realize just how intelligent until I met her. She really just exudes brilliance.

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  11. That's awesome! Fun Home is really good and I've been looking forward to this one. It's always interesting to see how authors are in real life. I love it.

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