Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir

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by Ellen Forney
     
 

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Cartoonist Ellen Forney explores the relationship between “crazy” and “creative” in this graphic memoir of her bipolar disorder, woven with stories of famous bipolar artists and writers.

Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her

Overview

Cartoonist Ellen Forney explores the relationship between “crazy” and “creative” in this graphic memoir of her bipolar disorder, woven with stories of famous bipolar artists and writers.

Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her to lose creativity, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passions and creativity.

Searching to make sense of the popular concept of the crazy artist, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. She also researches the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, including the strengths and limitations of various treatments and medications, and what studies tell us about the conundrum of attempting to “cure” an otherwise brilliant mind.

Darkly funny and intensely personal, Forney’s memoir provides a visceral glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist’s work, as she shares her own story through bold black-and-white images and evocative prose.

Editorial Reviews

Retentive booksellers and readers might remember Ellen Forney as the illustrator of Sherman Alexie's National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Now she ventures into an arena that she knows even better: bipolar disorder. In the late nineties, when the Seattle artist was first diagnosed with the malady, she worried not only about the malady, but also about how her new medications might curtail or distort her creativity. Though tagged as a graphic memoir, Marbles tackles that issue by pulling back to describe the experiences of mood plague artists including Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe, Sylvia Plath, and Michelangelo. Forney also helpfully describes efficacy of various pharmaceutical and treatment options. As informative as it is personal.

The New York Times Book Review
It's not exactly focused, but it's mostly delightful: Forney switches up the style and layout of her artwork every page or two, and she's got enough perspective on herself to find some kind of comedy even in painful experiences.
—Douglas Wolk
Publishers Weekly
Eisner nominee Forney confesses her struggles with being diagnosed as bipolar in this witty and insightful memoir. Beginning with the manic episode that led to her diagnosis, Forney chronicles her journey toward reconciling the dual natures of bipolar disorder: a dangerous disease, but also a source of inspiration for many artists. The long journey of medication and therapy is kept from gloom by Forney’s lively, likable cartooning. Alternating among her cartoonish panels, realistic illustrations, and photographs of the sketch pad she kept as part of her therapy, Forney allows her art to chronicle her outer life while revealing her inner state of mind. Her personal journey provides a core story that examines her mood disorders and their connection to creativity for the many “crazy artists” she imagines as part of “Club van Gogh.” Readers struggling with their own mania or depression will find Forney good company, and others searching for insight into the minds of troubled artists will find Forney an engaging storyteller. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
A Washington Post Best Book of 2012

Named one of the best books of the year by East Bay Express

Named Best Graphic Novel of Fall 2012 by Time

"Brutally honest and deeply moving, the book is by turns dark, mordant, and hilarious. One of this year's best American memoirs." —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Forney’s exhilarating and enlightening autobiographical portrait of her bipolar disorder (otherwise known as manic depression), takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster….  Her clear and thoughtful art provides a powerful, effective and brilliant illumination of this unforgettable adventure.”
Miami Herald

"Ellen Forney's memoir of her bipolar diagnosis and long pharmacopic trek toward balance is painfully honest and joyously exuberant. Her drawings evoke the neuron-crackling high of mania and the schematic bleakness of depression with deft immediacy. Forney is at the height of her powers as she explores the tenuous line between mood disorders and creativity itself."
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

“Dense with intellectual and emotional power, Forney's book is a treasure—as a memoir, as an artwork, and as a beautifully conceived and executed commentary on both mental experience and the creative life. With wit, humor, a wicked sense of the absurd, and eloquent insight into the beauty that shines through the mercurial life of the mind, this graphic memoir explores its subject with a particular precision and power. Forney should be read.”
—Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life

"Ellen's work has always been hilarious and sharp, but Marbles has an emotional resonance that shows new depth as an artist and a writer. This is an extremely personal, brave, and rewarding book."
—Dan Savage, editor of It Gets Better and author of The Kid

"I have always admired Ellen Forney's humor and honesty, but Marbles is a major leap forward. It's a hilarious memoir about mental illness, yes, but it's also an incisive study of what it means to be human and how we ache to become better humans. Amazing stuff."
—Sherman Alexie, bestselling author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

“Witty and insightful…The long journey of medication and therapy is kept from gloom by Forney’s lively, likable cartooning … Readers struggling with their own mania or depression will find Forney good company, and others searching for insight into the minds of troubled artists will find Forney an engaging storyteller.”
—Starred Publishers Weekly

“Not only does her conversational intimacy draw readers in, but her drawings perfectly capture the exhilarating frenzy of mania and the dark void of depression….Forney’s story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide readership.”
—Starred Kirkus Reviews

"Marbles isn't just a great story; it's proof that artists don't have to be tortured to be brilliant."
Entertainment Weekly, Grade "A" Review

“Is it weird to call a memoir about bipolar disorder entertaining? Well, this one is, thanks to the ease with which Forney translates her vivacious, fearless personality to the page…. Forney has a virtuosic understanding of what words and images can do in congress, playing them off one another in ways that allow her pages to be more than the sum of their parts.”
—Myla Goldberg, NPR.org

Marbles is more than a survivor’s story…It is a book about Forney’s struggle to come to terms with herself, which is similar to the struggle everyone must undergo.”
Los Angeles Times

Library Journal
Forney, who is known for her illustrations in Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late twenties. Marbles takes us through her life before, during, and after diagnosis, addressing her ecstatic manic episodes, their obsessive/angry component, and intermittent deep depressions. Fortunately, Forney finds a good therapist who walks her through the lengthy process of finding the just-right drug combo that will restore psychic balance without interfering with creativity. It's Forney's art that makes her journey memorable and instructive. Mania: riding on a carousel unicorn on a high pole, throwing off stars and glitter. Obsession: clinging terrified to an unstable steed that won't stop running. Depression: a bandaged hand with tiny faces peering out from under the bandages. As part of treatment, she pictures her head sprouting five smaller heads, each nagging her to pay attention to a different symptom. VERDICT Readers interested in bipolar disorder, mania, or depression will find these pages helpful and entertaining. Highly recommended for all libraries, high-school and up. Some nudity and simulated sex; nothing graphic.—M.C.
Kirkus Reviews
For anyone who loves graphic memoir or has concerns about bipolar swings, creativity and medication, this narrative will prove as engaging and informative as it is inspirational. Since the connection between artistry and mental instability has been well-documented, plenty of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder share the fears articulated in this unflinchingly honest memoir by Forney (I Love Led Zeppelin, 2006, etc.). "I don't want balance, I want brilliance!" she exclaims during one of her manic phases. "Meds would bring me down!" Taking pride in her membership in "Club van Gogh (The true artist is a crazy artist)," she subsequently suffered from periods of depression that brought her down far lower than medication even could. "During a manic episode, depression seems entirely impossible," she writes, but depression often made it impossible for her to imagine feeling so good, or feeling much of anything beyond a benumbed dread. Forney chronicles her years of therapy, her research into the literature of depression and her trial-and-error experiences with medication--and cocktails of medication--searching for the combination where the benefits outweighed the side effects. She directly confronts the challenge facing anyone trying to monitor and assess her own mental state: "How could I keep track of my mind, with my own mind?" Not only does her conversational intimacy draw readers in, but her drawings perfectly capture the exhilarating frenzy of mania and the dark void of depression. "It was a relief to discover that aiming for a balanced life doesn't mean succumbing to a boring one," she writes with conviction. Forney's story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide readership.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592407323
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
131,124
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
A Washington Post Best Book of 2012

Named one of the best books of the year by East Bay Express

Named Best Graphic Novel of Fall 2012 by Time

"Brutally honest and deeply moving, the book is by turns dark, mordant, and hilarious. One of this year's best American memoirs." —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Forney’s exhilarating and enlightening autobiographical portrait of her bipolar disorder (otherwise known as manic depression), takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster….  Her clear and thoughtful art provides a powerful, effective and brilliant illumination of this unforgettable adventure.”
Miami Herald

"Ellen Forney's memoir of her bipolar diagnosis and long pharmacopic trek toward balance is painfully honest and joyously exuberant. Her drawings evoke the neuron-crackling high of mania and the schematic bleakness of depression with deft immediacy. Forney is at the height of her powers as she explores the tenuous line between mood disorders and creativity itself."
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

“Dense with intellectual and emotional power, Forney's book is a treasure—as a memoir, as an artwork, and as a beautifully conceived and executed commentary on both mental experience and the creative life. With wit, humor, a wicked sense of the absurd, and eloquent insight into the beauty that shines through the mercurial life of the mind, this graphic memoir explores its subject with a particular precision and power. Forney should be read.”
—Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life

"Ellen's work has always been hilarious and sharp, but Marbles has an emotional resonance that shows new depth as an artist and a writer. This is an extremely personal, brave, and rewarding book."
—Dan Savage, editor of It Gets Better and author of The Kid

"I have always admired Ellen Forney's humor and honesty, but Marbles is a major leap forward. It's a hilarious memoir about mental illness, yes, but it's also an incisive study of what it means to be human and how we ache to become better humans. Amazing stuff."
—Sherman Alexie, bestselling author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

“Witty and insightful…The long journey of medication and therapy is kept from gloom by Forney’s lively, likable cartooning … Readers struggling with their own mania or depression will find Forney good company, and others searching for insight into the minds of troubled artists will find Forney an engaging storyteller.”
—Starred Publishers Weekly

“Not only does her conversational intimacy draw readers in, but her drawings perfectly capture the exhilarating frenzy of mania and the dark void of depression….Forney’s story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide readership.”
—Starred Kirkus Reviews

"Marbles isn't just a great story; it's proof that artists don't have to be tortured to be brilliant."
Entertainment Weekly, Grade "A" Review

“Is it weird to call a memoir about bipolar disorder entertaining? Well, this one is, thanks to the ease with which Forney translates her vivacious, fearless personality to the page…. Forney has a virtuosic understanding of what words and images can do in congress, playing them off one another in ways that allow her pages to be more than the sum of their parts.”
—Myla Goldberg, NPR.org

Marbles is more than a survivor’s story…It is a book about Forney’s struggle to come to terms with herself, which is similar to the struggle everyone must undergo.”
—Los Angeles Times

Meet the Author

Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly before her thirtieth birthday. A lifelong cartoonist, she collaborated with Sherman Alexie on National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and created Eisner Award-nominated comic books I Love Led Zeppelin and Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection. She teaches comics courses at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.

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Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, both the graphics and the story. What a remarkable woman. Impossible to put down. Should be read by anyone who wants to know about bipolar disorder from the inside in full graphic detail. Those drawings!!! Recommended for anyone who has this disorder, knows someone with this disorder, or just wants to read a GREAT book.
reneecp1 More than 1 year ago
I have been groping for “balance, neutral, normal”, or at least for health, after a delinquent Bipolar I diagnosis four years ago. My creativity manifests itself differently than for the author, but contributes to my sense of self, all the same. I hope to reclaim “me” under a flag of peace before the day is done. This book is spot on – spot on. While I don’t have a dark sense of humor, I relate to every word and drawing – she has painted a picture of me. If you want a behind the scenes look of a soul’s struggles with manic-depression, read this book.
D_MacGowan More than 1 year ago
A really great and really true chronicle of mental illness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm crazy about this book. If you can get past some out-of-control behavior, and she wouldn't be bipolar if she didn't do crazy things, this book is funny and insightful.
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voyager8 More than 1 year ago
Self centered and redundant whining in pictures. Some of the graphic memoirs are amazing even if you are not into that sort of thing but this as with Alison Betchel's recent graphic memoir is just awful even if the illustrations are terrific as they are in both. A good graphic memoir off the top of my head would be Dragon Slippers or Betchels original graphic memoir.