Graphic novelist / cartoonist Alison Bechdel (of Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For fame) came to Montréal to speak last week. She was humourous and humble in person, and gave some surprising insights into her creative process (lots of photo staging, writes in Adobe Illustrator). Though I haven’t picked up one of Bechdel’s books in a while, it was refreshing to see her latest work — coming in a full circle, I suppose — and to also see the great diversity of her audience.
Bechdel’s work has spanned anywhere from sharp political commentary, fiction, memoir, to pop cultural nuggets like The Bechdel Test. (That evening I even heard the word “memoirist” tossed around). After coming across her work over ten years ago, I found myself drawn in by the compelling autobiographical narrative she spins in her 2006 memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which was named one of TIME’s Best Books of the Year, among other accolades.
Bechdel’s mastery of the comics genre has been refined over her thirty-plus years as a cartoonist and writer, and it shows in her intelligent, witty prose, distinctive narrative voice and meticulous visual detailing. Her latest book Are You My Mother? is another memoir, focusing on her relationship with her mother. Another interesting contextual tidbit from The Atlantic:
Bechdel notes at the book’s beginning that she will never be a mother herself; she began menopause the week she began drawing the story. “There’s a certain relief in knowing that I am a terminus,” she writes. Instead, this work is her link in the long chain connecting her foremothers and their daughters and all of the other women who shaped her.
Bechdel is fascinating too in interview, and it seems not so surprising that she lives and works from quiet country home (tones of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own).
What did I take away from Bechdel’s personal story? Work hard at what you love, and it can become a spiritual path of self-discovery. More over at Alison Bechdel’s site.