|Review By: Kath Duncan|
I fancy myself one of Bechdel's greatest fans but I struggled with annoyance all the way through this dense comic drama. I wasn't expecting such an unwavering psychoanalytic treatment of her relationship with her mother. It's textbook.
Each chapter begins with a dream. It took me about 4 chapters to work out this was a schtick and every time I was deflated to realise this compellng opener with simpler text, more exploratory circumstances, bigger frames etc, was merely symbolic of something we were to spend the next chapter unpacking at length. Most of the action takes place on the couch with Bechdel's stream of psychs and analysts, on another couch with the twentieth century psychoanalytic fervent Bechdel confesses she wishes was her mother, Donald Winnicott; or with her sardonic detached mother in awkward conversations. It is an unrelenting unpeeling of Bechdel's search for maternal meaning and for the first time I wondered if this were TMI.
Bechdel exposes herself as a difficult lover, regularly admitting she's attracted to other people while engaged in serial monogamy, and being self obsessed beyond parody: in one awful moment with the beaky perky Jewish Amy, her lengthiest partnership so far, Bechdel drags Amy into a church after a fight in their car about money, cries over the children performing the nativity play, then insists they leave. Immediately. Paranoid she will catch disease from the children or watch another parishoner throw up, Bechdel shows us her ugly control freak underbelly. Unashamedly. That takes guts.
The best bits? Hmmm. Despite resisting the psychoanalytic lures of turning every banality into parental-baby-breast-penis-desire-abjection-disaster scenarios, I cannot help but remain haunted by the design, her masterful multi-layering metaphors and cutural references, the drawings especially of herself as an adult, much more so than in the genius Fun Home. Bechdel knows what to show to stall you with her in the moment, to control you via your eyes; while you are helplessly seduced by the pithiness of the text which is as ever perfect. So so perfect.
Bechdel has our souls, she knows it, she can do us up the arse with any of her work and we will always beg for more.