June 9, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 23
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Tuesday, Jun 02, 2020



A DYKE TO WATCH OUT FOR - Alison Bechdel at The UW Bookstore & The Wildrose, June 16 & 17
A DYKE TO WATCH OUT FOR - Alison Bechdel at The UW Bookstore & The Wildrose, June 16 & 17
by Maggie Bloodstone - SGN A&E Writer

You don't have to be a dyke to be familiar with Alison Bechdel's work, but Goddess knows it helps. Her best-known creation, the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For has appeared in darn near every magazine, weekly, and anthology geared towards Queerness since 1983. By no means a separatist universe, DTWOF evolved from a lighter-side-of-Lesbianism strip to a highly involving-and addictive- account of a group of humans with roots in the women's community, but includes representations of about every hyphenated gender identity you can shake a copy of Heather Has Two Mommies at. And there's nary a stereotype to be found-every character as fully realized, contradictory, and fun to hang with as that core group of homie/homos you've known since Ellen DeGeneres was passing for straight. In a perfect world, collections of DTWOF would outsell Garfield, with Bechdel's Everydyke, Mo, and her widely extended family as familiar to the equally diverse 3-dimensional world as The Simpson clan.

DTWOF, as well as Bechdel's brief serial on the life & times of workers at a Gay newspaper, Servants To The Cause, and her autobiographical pieces that ran in the late great Gay Comix (including her Coming Out Story, presciently titled Coming Out Story) are distinguished by the fact that they are some of the most laugh-out-loud, on-target, unexaggerated glimpses into Queer life in these United States ever committed to newsprint. Period. Too often, when any artist known for their wit and satirical eye turns to drama, the results are self-consciously stilted and dreary, especially so with cartoonists, who for that reason tend to stick with their strengths (Charlie Brown had his poignant moments, but you'll never see an opera based on Peanuts-not in this dimension). With her illustrated memoir, Fun Home, Bechdel has made that crossover with the greatest of ease, marrying words to pictures with an eye for heartrending detail as perfectly constructed as the carefully decorated Victorian house she grew up in, which doubled as a family-run funeral home (or: Fun. Home).

Fun Home follows Bechdel's life from childhood to her young Lesbianhood, but the primary theme is the story of her painfully conflicted, closeted father, a figure of both reserved mystery and intellectual fascination for the young Alison. The mid-'70's backdrop of presidential calumny, sexual self-discovery, and mass media diversion is balanced perfectly with the classic themes of death, dark secrets, and family turmoil-components that could all too easily be rendered into histrionic mush by a less capable (and more Hollywood-minded) renderer. Bechdel uses literary comparisons (like comparing her father to both Icarus and Daedalus) without a hint of pretension, and utilizes her deceptively simple drawing style to bring even the most mundane memories to resonant life that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned. Like her work in comics, Bechdel's 'Family Tragicomic' goes down easily, but packs a subtle, unmistakable bite that gets you right in the heart.

Alison Bechdel will be appearing at the University Book Store (U. District), Friday, June 16, 7pm for a reading and book signing, and again at The Wildrose, Sat., June 17, 7pm (presented by Bailey/Coy Books) for a multimedia presentation-which, I presume, will also include book signing as well, so get down to Bailey/Coy and pick up Fun Home to bring with your well-read copy of Dykes And Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms To Watch Out For.

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