I’m terrible at reading comics.
I never read them as a child, though I’m not really sure why. It wasn’t until Lauren lent me Lucy Knisley’s French Milk a few Christmases ago that I even really considered reading a graphic novel. French Milk is lovely, and opened my eyes to what really is a brilliant medium. Since then, I’ve read and enjoyed and bought a few, including other Lucy Knisley books, Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys, some Star Wars, and Bastien Vivès’ A Taste Of Chlorine, which is incredibly beautiful. My problem, though, is that I read them too fast. I just read the words, but there’s so much more to them than the words, so I end up missing stuff. I’m getting better at it, but it’s a challenge.
So when, a little while ago, my friend told me off for not having read Fun Home, I protested that someone had it out of the school library, so I couldn’t read it at least until it was returned. But then I had that fateful trip to Waterstones, and it was the first thing I picked up. I didn’t know much about Alison Bechdel, aside from the Bechdel Test, and other occasional panels from Dykes To Watch Out For. It turns out I’ve been missing out, because I loved it. I loved the combination of tragedy and humour, the honesty with which Bechdel talks about her family and their past. I love how she examines their motives and actions, her feelings about it all, the wider context of events that, at the time, seemed to be just about them. I really enjoyed the way she discusses the development of her sexuality, and how that relates to her family.
I also found that, for the first time, I didn’t have to slow myself down. I engaged with the art as well as the words, and it was a revelation. I got so much more out of it. I’m pleased, because that means I will be able to engage better with other comics and graphic novels, too, and then the world is my oyster, and probably I will spend a fortune in Gosh! Comics in Soho. Uhoh.
In short, it’s fantastic, and I’ll definitely be reading it again.