Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Everyone's Book of the Year it Seems - Fun Home

So the break from work was great and it was very nice to get out of Ottawa for a while and stay with the in-laws with my parent visiting us for Christmas and New Years Eve. The flight home on the first was okay, but the service at the Halifax Airport was by far the worst I have ever experienced in my life and I was in Ottawa two years ago during a major snowstorm that cancelled almost all the flights. I have written a letter of complaint to Air Canada about the people they had working at their counter and how utterly rude and disorganized they were to a massive group of stressed out people who were delayed because of the staff incompetence. This has nothing to do with comics but I’ll get to the point soon. You see, I finally got Fun Home from the library but forgot it at my home for the holidays. It was due back on January 2nd and I couldn’t renew it. How would I possibly have time to read it, thought I.

Turns out I had a lot of free time at work yesterday since only four of us bothered to show up. It was a nice way to spend the day; reading the critically acclaimed and mainstream media breaking Fun Home.

A lot has already been said about this text and mounds of praise have been heaped upon it so I’ll try to focus on something I haven’t personally come across in what I’ve managed to read about the book. Basically, I’m wondering if Fun Home will be the next holy grail of comics, along the lines of Maus? I think the Pulitzer was an obvious boost in Maus’s favour but I also think Fun Home has a couple of things working in its favour as well. Essentially, I think it breaks ground for most readers on two fronts.

I think Fun Home can be a modern example of queer text. Not just in the subject matter but in the actual form of it. It’s not just words on paper but words and pictures. To most people “comics” is a bad word, much like the reclaimed “queer.” I think the form and context go hand in hand. The subject matter is about coming to terms with being gay while being presented in an outside the mainstream format. However, even when you start to examine the book against other comics it still maintains its status as queer. For me this is because there is a lot of artwork that is the graphic reproduction of text or photographs.

The comic itself is artistic representation of other representations of life or layers upon layers of interpretation. The experiences presented are filtered through other filters of reality. We are given the artist/writer’s artistic representation of typewritten letters, handwritten journals and family photos. What stands out for me is the graphic interpretation of text. This is a twisting of one of the fundamental assumptions about comics. Comics are meant to be words and art. So is it still comics if what we’re given is words and words? That’s where I see the queer themes reinforcing one another. There is an assumption of principle and an assumed “deviation” from the norm. It truly is a fantastic tour de force of comics that, for me at least, helped push the limits of what I think comics are and can be.

This wasn’t fiction, it wasn’t words with pictures yet it was still narrative and still art. For me it helped me make some connections to determine just what it was I thought I knew about comics. It helped me define my own take on the medium all the while being a captivating story. I never thought I’d be a fan of dramatic naval gazing into the life of a comic book creator and yet I couldn’t put this book down – never mind the fact it was due back at the library, I was simply captivated by the life on an “other” presented to me.

There are so many reasons this book shouldn’t be successful and yet it is despite those reasons. It’s a comic but people in the mainstream reading culture don’t like comics plus it’s about coming to terms with being gay but there are enough people out there who think anything gay is dangerous to the fabric of society. I think Fun Home will be a groundbreaking book for a lot of people on two fronts. It will get them reading a comic and a queer text while letting them not be freaked out by either.

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