Monthly Archives: March 2017

No Message is a Message – Fun Home

No message is a message. I used to say this to all my friends who had a crush on somebody that didn’t reciprocate their feelings. Besides this phrase being quite applicable in the ‘romance department’, I think ‘no message is a message’ (or in other words, SILENCE), is quite fitting in ‘Fun Home’. So what do I mean by that??? Well…

I think one of my favourite parts of ‘Fun Home’ would be from pages 220-223. From pages 220 to 221, we see Alison and Bruce in the car, moment to moment, sharing a conversation about something that now has been finally brought to light between the both of them. I think Bechdel choosing to show this scene moment by moment is crucial to the book’s climax as we finally get to see a more direct and vulnerable side of Bruce. There are a total of 3 boxes/images/moments of Bruce and Alison not saying a word out of the 24 frames in the 2 page spread. I think silence is profound in a car. I don’t know. There’s just a lot that goes on when you’re silent in a car. You’re thinking. You’re in a daze. You’re trying not to say what you want to say. You’re withholding. It’s just something about silence in a car, but more specifically, showing silence in a graphic novel that helps delay the suspense the reader feels as a vulnerable and fragile moment unfolds in front of them.

In the story, Alison and Bruce end up seeing a film. Then, Bruce takes Alison to this ‘notorious local nightspot’. There is a gay bar at the back. After being ID’d, they drive home in silence. This silence is different to the one before they got to the theatre. It’s ‘mortified silence’. I think they’re both realizing something. And this is what it is…

So, Bruce takes his daughter (who recently just came out as lesbian) to a gay bar. The way they behave during this and whilst afterwards personifies the contrasting differences between the father and daughter’s ways of dealing with their homosexuality. Bruce wants to support Alison, but he’s still uncomfortable or at least he’s still struggling with his homosexuality. I’m sure both Alison and Bruce want to connect on their common ground, but ultimately, they can’t be on the same page because Bruce’s shame is just too deep. He talks about his past affairs, but he can’t come out and just say it straight to his daughter’s face despite wanting to be there for her. I think that’s what the silence represents. He wants to be supportive but he can’t bring himself to be that figure because he himself isn’t comfortable and whole with who he is. So he’s unable to be by his daughter’s side through this all.

Sebald – Time, Memory, and the Human Experience

  • a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.
    The word ‘saudade’ came to mind when understanding Austerlitz. I guess it’s because it made me think of the past and how time back then and the memories which unfold give me this certain feeling.

There’s this text that appears at the end of a Wong Kar Wai film, In The Mood For Love (2000) that I’d like to share that talks about memory –

“He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.”

I find that incredibly beautiful. I know for a fact I have a thing for melancholia and nostalgia. I find it somewhat romantic. To describe looking into the past as a ‘dusty window pane’ is unparalleled to any description I could ever make up. Anyway, let me talk about how what I’ve just said above ties in with Austerlitz.

To set the tone… Here’s one of my favourite passages from the book:

“It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last… And might it not be, continued Austerlitz, that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for the most part extinguished, and must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?”

Sebald writes with this trance-like, fleeting yet deep quality which makes me hear the voice of Time yet Time for some reason does not like to overstay its visit and dissolves into a core place within ourselves that transforms into memory. Sebald captures the sentiment and makes the intangible as tangible as you could get when he explores the very journey of being lost and found again, falling apart only to be put back together… This book is covered with wandering beings, movement of trains, mist, fog, smoke, buildings, empty places, streets, forests, cemeteries, obscurity etc. It’s melancholic. We’re wandering. There’s sadness when you wander, just floating by. We’re near death in a way. The prose wanders like the narrator and it gives me the sense of this lost soul trying to find home. It even reminds me of the sadness I felt when Holden Caulfield (from The Catcher of The Rye) endlessly wanders trying to find Allie, feeling as if he could possibly vanish into thin air every time he turned a corner. The narrator’s voice floats and guides us to feel melancholia – it’s beautiful and tender, but there is also a deep undercurrent of sadness and loss.

What Sebald has written truly is a representation of the human experience. It made me feel a lot as I tend to gravitate towards the past. Sebald’s Austerlitz is actually giving me the same feeling I felt when I watched the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both the book and film deal with the themes of memory, time, and the human experience.