Alison Bechdel may well be the most important cartoonist working today.
With the publication of Are You My Mother?, her amazing new memoir, Bechdel exceeds the considerable achievement of her 2006 masterpiece Fun Home, bringing psychic life to the page like no one else and finding innovative pictorial ways of mixing narrative accessibility with theoretical sophistication.
Artists like Chris Ware and David B. are arguably more masterful at the drafting table — their lines are more amazingly controlled and their cartooning more proficient — but their drawings can overwhelm their characters and stories, which occasionally come to seem like victims of their technical mastery. Their works are objects — beautiful, masterfully crafted, but also fetishistically, virtuosically static, almost cold in their perfection.
By contrast, Are You My Mother? dissects a living, still-beating relationship, rigorously, unsentimentally, confronting the fact that “the story of my mother and me is unfolding even as I write it.” What this means is that Bechdel’s story has the disorienting gravity of experiences not yet assimilated into any simple symbolic matrix. The challenges this open-endedness poses to the reader are considerable, but the pleasures and insight available for those willing to follow her mind in motion are, correspondingly, without equal.
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
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My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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