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reading tiger

Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? is possibly the most brilliant memoir I have ever read, right up there in terms of the engines coming on at the end as Rechy's Of My Life and the Kept Woman. You think Fun Home was great? You just wait.


Hmmm, I didn't like it at all. I found it incredibly boring and I was really pre-disposed to read anything of hers. I even pre-ordered the book! Maybe I am just not that interested in the history of psycho-analysis but I couldn't get through it. In fact, if anyone wants a copy, you can have mine.

What did you like about it?
Me too. My one-word review on Goodreads pretty much summed it up for me.

The whole time I was reading the book, I felt like I was cornered in a conversation with someone I adored but who was oblivious to my presence in the conversation. I just wanted to get away.
Interesting that both you and G didn't like it! I learned it was about Winnicott and attachment literally minutes after I'd just placed an Amazon order, and turned right around to order it post haste. I read it almost straight through and am considering how I might assign it to my human development class in the fall. I was captivated by it, though my attachment issues with my mother played out differently than hers did.
I think it's probably seriously an artist's memoir (and so is Rechy's). It's about learning to tell stories, and why we tell stories. It's the last few pages, especially the very last, that kind of opens up the whole story for reconsideration. If you can't get to that point, of course, it's kinda moot.

Are You My Mother? is very subdued, and definitely self-absorbed, but I like that it also deconstructs *why* it's self-absorbed as it goes along. And yes, she uses a lot of Winnicott's story to do so, but I do have an interest in early childhood development (not a mom-interest, a longstanding prior interest thanks to day care and college work-study projects -- ask me about the Zone of Proximal Development sometime), so that part didn't put me off, it was kind of charming and antique if that makes sense.

And I like the fact that it's telling a complicated story about mothers and daughters that, seriously, I haven't ever seen the like of before. Her mother gets to be just a person with her own problems without being excused or redeemed -- or condemned and rejected, or even just consigned to the past.
P.S. I was warned once by a writing instructor that people hate reading extended scenes of therapy...
yep, there you go. Good advice. ;)
Skim! Admire the pretty blonde haircuts!
Yes, all of this, exactly.

It also has interesting things to say about the client/therapist relationship.
I'd love to have your copy. Just read the one about her dad.
I loved Fun Home.

I can leave it at the Rainbow cheese counter if that works for you. I'll email when I remember to bring it to work. ;)
Sounds good to me. Thanks!
I didn't particularly mind the self-absorbtion (I mean, jeez, that's what memoir is!) and, like you, I thought she used her readings of psychoanalytic theory to take try to understand the self-absorbed appeal of memoir.

But it totally didn't work for me. I thought she repositioned psychoanalytic theory where self-referentiality typically stands in the memoir (mirroring, according to psychoanalytic theory, a stance about half-way through the process of analysis--her shrink is elevated above her sef), and that's no good either. If she'd used her personal stories to simultaneously problematize (the highly problematic) Winnicott, it would have justified her slavish reiteration of his ideas.

I was interested in the problem she set up about mothers & daughters. I just didn't feel like she actually said very much about it. The textual set-up left me feeling shut of her life, the mechanics of psychoanalytic theory, and her mother's motivations.
You know, I loved it, too, but I did not love it as much as I have loved other work of hers. I specifically wanted to hear more about the romantic relationships, especially since they were being drawn out alongside the mom relationship and the various therapist relationships. The therapists felt so vividly rendered, and the girlfriends felt a little flatly described in comparison. Which also very well might have been her point! But, still, I found myself wanting more.

And yeah, I didn't find the stuff about psychoanalysis or childhood development boring. But I'm also really nerdy, and easily fascinated when I'm learning about something new -- so I was content to go along with her for those rides and learn about all this stuff I knew next to nothing about.
So I just read Are You My Mother? and thought it was absolutely brilliant, intricate, fascinating, coming at the subject from many directions, some of them completely unexpected. The interweaving of her own story, the writings of Woolfe and Winnicot, the material about her own process of writing/drawing, her experiences in therapy, her mother's theatrical work - amazingly well done. I was riveted and deeply moved. And remembered that you were the only person I knew who loved it, so here I am. (Could not get to dim sum yesterday, but another time.)