Read this memoir last night and this morning on the plane flying back from NYC (though it's only a short flight, I managed to get through almost all of it).
What emerges is a highly complex man (Bruce Bechdel, Alison's father) who is loving, stern, distant, manipulative, and conflicted. I have rarely felt that I understood a long-dead character from a book as I do now about him. His death at 44 seems doubly tragic in the consequences it has on a young girl, a traumatized family, and a man who never had the chance to live his life the way he needed to.
And as Bechdel herself noted at her performance Saturday at The New Yorker Festival, the book is as much a book about gender non-conformity as it is about twin tales a man who never has the chance to come out of the closet and a young girl's acceptance of her own lesbianism.
I highly recommend this book: even for those who don't think you enjoy graphic novels, there is a real insight here that the form allows Bechdel to delve into in a very unique way. Not only is her internal life presented here but "archival" evidence from her past, recreated here in graphic novel form: diaries, letters, police reports, telegrams, old photos. It's highly readable and immensely moving.
OK off to Thanksgiving dinner now. Happy holidays, everyone.
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