Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Alison Bechdel on The Book Show

Sinead Gleeson’s RTE Radio One programme meets one of the greatest graphic “novel” writers around.

Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 10:46


I love Sinead Gleeson’s Book Show on RTE. One Saturday’s programme, Gleeson caught up with Alison Bechdel in New York. Bechdel is one of my personal literary, artistic and feminist heroes. Like most people, I came across her work in Dykes To Watch Out For, the cult lesbian comic series which became a hugely satisfying read in the brilliant collection The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For.

Bechdel is also the slightly accidental inventor of The Bechdel Test, a feminist check list for movies which has bubbled underneath the surface since it first appeared in the 1985 strip ‘The Rule’. In recent years, with the new wave of feminism 3.0, the Bechdel Test essentially entered the mainstream of popular culture, becoming increasingly referenced and credited. “It’s so funny to me that this has become a meme,” Bechdel says in Gleeson’s interview.

But really it was 2006′s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic that elevated Bechdel’s to something beyond an extremely smart and subversive comic artist. The graphic memoir is an incredibly invigorating literary experience, endlessly layered, dark, serious, funny, sad and beautiful. Her next book Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama documents Bechdel’s relationship with her mother with a dark brilliance.

Gleeson’s interview with Bechdel is great, and is preceded by a conversation about Orwell and essays. Listen here.