Alison on a Roll

When Eddie and I were preparing to fly homeward a couple of weeks ago after our visit with his folks in Florida, I picked up a Sunday New York Times at the West Palm Beach airport.

We were airborne by the time I made it to the New York Times Book Review and found my mood elevated even higher by my discovery that the Times had seen fit that very Sunday to give Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home its due.

And that was just for starters. Eight days after Sean Wilsey’s aforementioned piece in the Book Review ("a pioneering work…" said Wilsey) there came a second review of Alison’s "Family Tragicomic," this one written by George Gene Gustines ("painfully honest and richly detailed in words and images…") for one of the same paper’s Books of the Times columns.

If you read my March 13 blog entry you already know that I’m firmly in the "Hooray for Alison" camp, and — given the heightened mainstream awareness of graphic novels that has taken place during the eleven years since the Times oh-so-cruelly ignored Stuck Rubber Baby (brief pause for envious teeth-grinding on my part) — I’m not surprised in the least by the widespread accolades garnered by Alison’s book. If any comics artist has even been overdue for general acclaim, it’s the talented Ms. Bechdel.

I would be embarrassed, of course, to own up to even a miniscule degree of professional envy if Alison didn’t admit to similar feelings toward herself. In a profile of Alison written by Hillary Chute in this week’s Village Voice the creator of Dykes To Watch Out For muses, "It’s weird because I’ve been publishing books for over 20 years [and] nothing has ever gotten attention like this. So, in an odd way, I feel envious of my own self. It’s like, how come nobody paid any attention to me before? Is my comic strip worse than I thought? Or is this book better than I thought?"

Yesterday I heard from my French pal (and Wendel translator) François Peneaud, instigator of the Gay Comics List, who tells me that Alison’s book is gearing up to make waves on his side of the Atlantic as well. "I’ve just learned that Fun Home will soon be published in France," he tells me, "and that it will be serialized this summer in a left-wing newspaper, Libération. Which is absolutely great, because a lot of people who don’t read bandes dessinées [That’s French for comics — H.C.] will see it."

François has wasted no time in composing his own online review of Fun Home, by the way, a review capped off with a link to the fascinating video of Alison’s working methods that is currently housed on the book’s promo page at Houghton Mifflin’s web site.

It’s a choice look at the artist at work in her lair. And while I’m fascinated to learn that some of Alison’s secret drawing tricks are almost as peculiar as mine, my favorite moment is a moment of deft synchronicity between Alison and her cat, who clearly has learned from experience how to safely step off of a desk’s surface into what would be, absent Alison’s perfect timing, thin air. You’ll see what I mean if you watch the video.

Our pets come to know us so well. And we them.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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2 Responses to Alison on a Roll

  1. mthomases says:

    FUN HOME is really, really good.

    And I’m sorry we didn’t get you in the Times, sweetie. As far as I know, SRB was the first graphic novel to ever sell first serial rights (to the Voice).

  2. I’m tickled pink to be in the same post as the New York Times Book of Review.
    Anyway, next week they’ll probably promote the latest Marvel crossover or something…