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

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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 ...

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

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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

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

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.)
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592407323
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 164,558
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    This is an amazing book, both the graphics and the story. What a

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 27, 2013

    I have been groping for ¿balance, neutral, normal¿, or at least

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Bore

    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.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    Highly recommended

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2014

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