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A different kind of book review
March 30, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Alison Bechdel's book review (comic book style) of "A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the future, all literary criticism will be in cartoon form.
posted by silkyd at 10:44 AM on March 30, 2009


If an editor took me to Chez Panisse, I'd let him slide on now knowing what "penultimate" means.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:48 AM on March 30, 2009


*not
posted by Joe Beese at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alison Bechdel could sketch a graphic review of the newest Nora Roberts paperback and it would still rule so hard. She has that almost singular quality, shared only by Daniel Mendelsohn, Edmund Wilson, DFW and a few others, of writing critiques that are more fun to read than the subject matter itself. Pocket History sounds like a poor man's version of Bechdel's fucking awesome graphic memoir, Fun Home: closeted gay (and possibly suicidal) father, beleaguered mother, increasingly aware kids, all tied together with a Freudian introspection. I was shocked that the same woman behind "Dykes to Watch Out For" (a great comic in its own scary right) could pen such a graceful memoir. Everyone I know who picked up Fun Home was unable to put it down until they hit the last page.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


This was excellent Brandon, thanks for posting. I still have yet to read the entirety of Fun Home, but the tone of this review really reminded me of the parts I have read. To me it really seems that she shares a sense of kinship with this fellow memoirist, whether it is spoken or not, someone else who is trying to make sense of or chronicle a painful past.
posted by wander at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2009


I wanted to like this more than I did. It's my own personal quirk, but I dislike excessive captioning in comics - in this case, the art (While good, as Bechdel's always is) is incidental and doesn't do much for the piece other than break up chunks of exposition, which, because of the limited space, isn't very substantial. As a comic or even an illustrated text, it fails to show, rather than tell.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you know. Next they'll start making whole books in comic form.
posted by Laotic at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2009


I really love her picture of young Jane. It looks more Hergé-ish than Bechdel usually draws. Sprightly!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:23 AM on March 30, 2009


Fun Home is really great.
posted by box at 12:07 PM on March 30, 2009


Fun Home was tremendous, and DTWOF has been pure awesome for years. I was very happy when I opened my dead-tree NYT book review yesterday and saw the review.
posted by rtha at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2009


In the future, all literary criticism will be in cartoon form.

We can hope.
posted by brennen at 1:58 PM on March 30, 2009


The first chapter of A Pocket History of Sex is linked at the bottom of the page. The author's father is struggling, like Bechdel's, with his own sexual identity and with the 1950s, a difficult time to be different.
I liked the review and it got me to read the excerpt and maybe I'll get the book, so it was successful in a commercial sense. I also read and re-read Bechdel's comments about the latter stage of the book and why it wasn't as good as the beginning. Her words (and they are as important to a comic as the pictures) were interesting and thought-provoking so I think the review was successful in non-commercial ways, too.
posted by CCBC at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2009


Well that was neat. Unfortunately for the author I now have no interest in the book, but I am hankering to read more Bechdel.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:37 PM on March 30, 2009


Next they'll start making whole books in comic form.

Sure they will. And the New York Times will have a special list for bestselling 'pictorial narratives', which we'll read while picnicing on the moon.
posted by Sparx at 4:41 PM on March 30, 2009



In the future, all literary criticism will be in cartoon form.

Oh god, we can hope against. I can't think of a novel that is best understood via extremely sparse pictures in a single page.

Guys, comics are awesome and everything, but let's leave them to what they're good at, okay?
posted by donblood at 5:01 PM on March 30, 2009


I have a weird relationship with Alison Bechdel's new success. On one hand I am so happy to see one of my favorite artists finally getting attention (and, I presume, a more dependable income). On the other, none of her newer work, including Fun Home, has seemed as alive and vital as DTWOF. And I can't help resenting that it's her non-explicitly-dyke-centric work that gets attention and accolades. I probably sound like one of those annoying music geeks who's like "U2 was cool when they did BOY, but their new stuff sucks." On the other hand, new U2 stuff does suck.
posted by serazin at 10:04 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


John Campbell, of Pictures for Sad Children, did a book review of a biography of Flannery O'Connor in comic form on his LiveJournal.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:37 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Lucy Knisley (whose work in some ways reminds me a little bit of Alison Bechdel's) did a synopsis of the Twilight books in her LiveJournal. I like this trend.
posted by sculpin at 4:59 PM on March 31, 2009


I just finished reading fun home in my comics class, and I quite enjoyed it, I'm in the middle now of reading Shortcomings by Tomine, anyone wanna do a FPP about that while we're at it?
posted by Del Far at 9:14 PM on March 31, 2009


I just finished reading fun home in my comics class, and I quite enjoyed it, I'm in the middle now of reading Shortcomings by Tomine

Wow, I just went from envy to pity in 2.4 seconds.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:38 PM on March 31, 2009


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