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March 22, 2010


Mike Rhode

Oooh, nice. I must say this is one of my favorite gns, but I just don't follow and notice the formalism the way you do.

Dr. Desertmartin

Good insights. I'm teaching the book myself this week in a college class. I guess what I want more of, what I haven't found here or elsewhere with recent critical viewpoints on Bechdel, is a critique of the autobiography itself. Sure, graphic novels, lesbianism and cliches about gender roles, but what about her construction of her father's life (something her own family found problematic)? What about her determination to convince the reader of his suicide (a determination that begs to be read like guilt)? And no one talking about why this might be a ploy to cover her own failures here? Seems the narrative is taken too much for granted, camouflaged perhaps by the graphic interests. If this were autobiography rather than autographic, I wonder what kind of things would be said about her sometime forced literary allusions, the contextualizing of both her father's life and her own, and the classically sentimental p.o.v. from a child-becoming-young-adult, naive narration. The book is only four years old, but I hope in the future to see some harder questions aimed at it. Thanks for the start.


I think you're right that Bechdel gets a pass from critics who are distracted by the false novelty of an autobiography in comics form (the same sense of false novelty, I think, that leads to unnecessary neologisms like "autographic" or "graphic narrative"), but I think that that unmerited praise for doing things comics have been doing for decades also tends to obscure the subtleties and complexities that are original to her work. Some of those literary analogies may be forced, and they all seem to beg for critical respectability, but Bechdel can juggle them with remarkable dexterity.

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