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Visit for yourself: Graphic novelist next up for Good Thunder

Alison Bechdel is Thursday's Good Thunder guest.

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 10-4-2012

If you’ve never read a graphic novel, I can guess why.

Cartoons are childish, immature, the lowest com­mon denominator in liter­ary entertainment.

Political cartoons and comic strips can be con­sumed sensibly by consent­ing adults, but entire books full of cartoons? C’mon.

That’s what I thought, too. At least until I read “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel, who is Thursday’s guest in the Good Thunder Reading Series.

Even as a kid, I was never a big cartoon fan. Why should I care about that idiot Coyote anyway when I could go hang out with the neigh­bor girl who liked to play doctor, or fill the woodchuck hole in the backyard with small explo­sives?

To this day, I’m some­what ashamed to admit I rarely read the comics page in my own newspa­per. Honestly, I get more laughs by transposing the text from Phillip Alder’s bridge col­umn with the answers for Dear Abby.

(Q: Dear Abby, there is this girl I like. How can I get her attention? A: The logical- looking line is to play a diamond to hand, then take the heart finesse.) But in college at Minnesota State University, I was forced to read a graphic novel for a world literature course. I rolled my eyes and reluctantly read “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi.

I was blown away. I read the novel — twice — in five hours.

Then I read “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer- winning graphic memoir about Holocaust survival.

Then I found Will Eisner, Kyle Baker and, of course, Bechdel.

In “Fun Home,” Bechdel’s style is cuttingly honest, sometimes disturbing, and filled with a sort of dispassionate humor. Her images are confident and witty, adding volume to the book’s subject matter that Bechdel once summarized thus: “How my closeted gay dad killed himself a few months after I came out to my parents as a lesbian.”

To be sure, graphic novels aren’t for everyone.

But they are an experience, like seeing paintings at an art gallery or a live concert.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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