Friday, January 29, 2016


My friend Lucy gave this to me for my birthday, and I'm so glad she did because I probably wouldn't have picked this graphic novel up on my own. I'm so word-oriented that it took me a while to get used to switching back and forth between the captions and the illustrations, but it's darn clever. And honest and painful. The "Fun Home" is actually the funeral home (just one example of the Bechdel's playfulness with language, turning things upside down and inside out) that her father runs. A good deal of the book is about her conflicted and complicated relationship with her father, and I won't spoil by telling why.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Colm Toibin, BROOKLYN

Beautifully written but peculiarly distancing. Perhaps Toibin wants to create in the reader the feeling of estrangement that Eilis feels because she moves from Ireland to Brooklyn and eventually feels like a stranger in both places. It's written in the third person, focalized through Eilis; but we get passages like this: "George seemed at a loss as he stood sipping his drink. He said something to Nancy and she replied. Then he sipped his drink again. Ellis wonderied what he was going to do; it was clear that his friend did not like Nancy or Eilis and had no intention of speaking to them; Eilis wished she had not been brought to the bar like this. She sipped her drink and looked at the ground." We at times have intimate access to the shades and shifts of Eilis's thoughts and feelings, and yet I felt often as if I were looking through a murky glass at the scene; for that reason it took me about 40 pages to become immersed in the book. It's a quiet story but compelling, and some of Eilis's humor (when we get to hear her speak) is very wry and even caustic. My only issue with books like this is that they remind me of Ally MacBeal (because every male character fell in love with her at some point). Perhaps because we don't hear Eilis speak very often, I can't figure out what is so exceptional about her that Father Flood meets her and almost immediately pulls all kinds of strings to bring Eilis to the US and then digs up people to pay for her tuition at bookkeeping school and advocates insistently on her behalf; the boy Tony sees her and almost instantly falls in love with her and his brother Frank develops a crush on her; when she returns briefly to Ireland, Jim Farrell sees her and falls desperately for her. Am I jealous? :)