Nearly 10 years after it was published and now that it’s a Tony-winning musical (!) I finally read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. (Hey, we all have gaps, right?) It definitely lives up to all the hype. The story of Bechdel and her father, mostly, it begins with her childhood in rural Pennsylvania, where she, her mother, and her brothers lived with a man obsessed with restoring their huge Victorian home, tending its gardens and generally maintaining and aesthetically pleasing appearance of a perfect home and family. He was also a part-time funeral director at his family’s funeral home, giving the Bechdel children and up-close and unflinching view of death. Really, up-close and unflinching is a pretty good descriptor for the book itself, the non-linear structure bringing the reader back to certain moments to re-examine them with new information or from an enlightened viewpoint. To say the book is peppered with literary references would be an understatement. Reading, bookishness and finding one’s own story are extremely important pieces of the narrative, every step of the way. It’s as much a love letter to reading as it is an autopsy of a father-daughter relationship.
Crimson Peak is such a gorgeous movie, which isn’t shocking given that it’s a Guillermo Del Toro film. His creature designs and overall artistic eye are things I really love about him. The ghosts in this movie are so rad-looking. A couple of years ago he released his Cabinet of Curiosities giving the world a look inside his notebooks and the way his brain works. It’s one of my favorite things to flip through. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of his, is what I’m saying (if you’re on Twitter, follow him for clever tweets and many many book, art, & film recommendations). As an enjoyer of the gothic fictions, when I heard he was planning this movie, I was so excited and immediately began wishing it would hurry up and exist already. AND he put Tom Hiddleston in it. Rawr. Expectations were high, and I was a leeeetle worried I’d be disappointed.
Recently I read Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman, which is about two female journalists who ended up racing each other around the world in 1889. Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland left on their solo trips from New York, heading in opposite directions, Bly aiming to beat the record set by Jules Verne’s fictional Phileas Fogg and Bisland aiming to beat Bly, who didn’t even know there was a race. Bly left in the morning, and Bisland’s editor called her and had her on a train that evening, convinced that by going west instead of east, she could make the trip faster. What follows is a fascinating look at history and the ever-shrinking world, through the eyes of two American women who couldn’t have been more different. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing because the copy of the book I read was my mother’s. I gave it to her for Mother’s Day in 2014 and I don’t even know if she read it before she died last October.
I’m just going to say it: I’m in my thirties and I love children’s books. Whenever one of those book memes pops up about your favorite books or books that made a lasting impression or whatever, one book that is always on my list is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It was my favorite book from the instant wee little me discovered it in the library, and I will never stop loving it, or marveling at it. I think it’s perfect.