Lucifer's Valet

FUN HOME

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 29 August 2010

Let me repeat the one thought I have about comics (I said it already here): drawings and words work together in comics the same way music and lyrics work together in songs.  But I think I have something to add to what I said previously. Obviously the effect of comics & songs depends on how both things work together. I would claim (oh, would you now?) that in both cases the words are less important than the other half. I don’t have a good argument for this claim. For one thing, I know there are exceptions.  But this lack leads me to a further thought: when we come to talk about these things, we expose an asymmetry, and an antithetical one at that: the weaker partner, in terms of effect, turns out to be the one we can talk about. It’s easy to talk about the words, harder to talk about the music or the drawings. Hence you get music reviews that have only vague, indirect things to say about the music, but clear, pointed things to say about the lyrics.

Time to insert my one philosophical joke (which captures all of Later Wittgenstein in a nutshell): one night a cop is walking the beat & comes upon a drunk on his hands & knees under a streetlight. The cop asks him what he’s doing. The drunk points across the street & says, “I lost my keys over there.” Astouned, the cop asks, “But why are you looking over here?” The drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home would be an exception to my idea. At least in terms of effects. Yes, her drawing is as always very expressive. Whenever the local free weekly wherever I was living at the time ran Dykes to Watch Out For, I enjoyed reading it. Her drawings are genial. (That’d be an example of someone who can only describe something in vague, indirect terms.) But she’s also great at drawing both characters & things:

And Fun Home has a great story. (For a synopsis, you can go here. (Blogging should be quick!) The characters are quirky and compelling, especially the central figure, her father. I found the story moving. Actually it got me thinking a lot about my own daughters (who are now eight & eleven) & my own emotional detachment from them, my own quirky aesthetic demands. (“You will keep watching this Iggy Pop clip on YouTube till you appreciate his genius!) I’m not as detached nor am I as demanding as Bechdel’s father. My girls may end up lacking that kernel of intense pain that leads to great art. I can live with that.

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