Book Review: “Are You My Mother” by Alison Bechdel

Posting my GoodReads review:
Alison Bechdel’s, Are You My Mother, embodies the best of what memoir writing is – reflective, stark, unapologetic. The graphic novel format loans itself to memory, dreams, and literal framing of the past.

This book will be compared to Fun Home, her first memoir. Fun Home was excellent and juxtaposed Bechdel’s coming out process with the realization that her father was a closeted gay man. In “Are You My Mother” Bechdel interleaves Freudian psychoanalysis (with an outstanding discussion of the work by Donald Winnicott,) the plight of the woman artist via exploration of Virginia Woolfe’s work (a Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse) with her own struggles with art, serial monogamy, and the relationship she has with her emotionally distant mother.

These two books are starkly different; the teal color of Fun Home and the maroon color of Are You My Mother are a tip off that each work is on a different part of an emotional spectrum. Are You My Mother is more personal, more interior, and has less narrative structure though it follows a loose chronology.

Some reviewers may find this work self-indulgent and an extreme exercise in naval-gazing. I found it to be unflinchingly open without alienating the reader. The artwork is beautiful and the scholarship on Winnicott and Woolfe enjoyable.


Rand, Harris, and Graham – book reviews

Three books recently read:

Anthem by Ayn Rand:  The most succinct rendition of Rand’s philosophy.

Free Will by Sam Harris:  A forty page essay which states that Free Will is an illusion (and has caused a great debate between him and the philosopher (and his friend,) Daniel Dennett.

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham
My review just posted on GoodReads:

Paul Graham is an early web innovator (creating the first online store company, ViaWeb, which was later sold to Yahoo!) He clearly foresees technology trends (the iPhone and Cloud Computing, for example) and is righteously opinionated – something important for creative, entrepreneurial people as he writes in one of the book’s earliest essays.

PG is a libertarian and sees the world through those lenses (it happens to be a lens I share to some degree, so it was a refreshing read.) If you dislike libertarian thought the book can be a challenge as that flavor permeates nearly every essay.

I am scientist but not a computer programmer (I last programmed in both Basic and IDLE in the 80s.) PG’s explanations of programming languages and the strength of LISP in particular were illuminating and enjoyable. It’s inspired me to take a programming class at a local university this summer.

Currently reading

Links go to GoodReads

Working my way through 3 books right now (note, links are to the Goodreads page.)

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Ghost: Confessions of a Counter-Terrorism Agent by Fred Burton.

Civilization: The West and the Rest” by Niall Ferguson.

Also reading some science texts for the classes I’m teaching and currently reading Leo Strauss for the class I will be taking Monday.