My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down

Overview

One of the most promising young talents in cartooning makes his debut with a dazzling collection—part freakish dreamlife, part quirk-o-rama autobiography, all genius.

Long a fixture in comics anthologies, David Heatley's deceptively crude, wickedly observant drawings have begun showing up on the New York Times op-ed pages and the cover of the New Yorker, introducing him to a vast new audience, Now, in My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (title courtesy of the Ramones song), we are ...

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Overview

One of the most promising young talents in cartooning makes his debut with a dazzling collection—part freakish dreamlife, part quirk-o-rama autobiography, all genius.

Long a fixture in comics anthologies, David Heatley's deceptively crude, wickedly observant drawings have begun showing up on the New York Times op-ed pages and the cover of the New Yorker, introducing him to a vast new audience, Now, in My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (title courtesy of the Ramones song), we are treated to the full range of Heatley's remarkable, wildly unique voice and vision.

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down is Heatley's life story told in six different but connected narrative threads. "Sex History" describes every sexual encounter dating back to kindergarten, with details that would make a therapist blush. "Black History" is an unflinchingly honest meditation on his own racism. "Portrait of My Mom" and "Portrait of My Dad" are beautifully paced vignettes, skewering and celebrating his lovably dysfunctional parents. "Family History" tells the story of his family from his great-great-grandparents' lives and closes with the birth of his own children. Woven in and around the larger pieces are "dream comics" that expand on the same themes with a baffling unconscious logic. Every inch of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down is filled with visceral art and emotionally resonant storytelling at once stunning, truthful, and uncomfortably hilarious.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Cartoonist Heatley explores his family history, relationships with his parents, sexuality and racism. Thanks in large part to the work of luminaries like Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware, autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical) comics have become a popular means for insightfully self-aware artists to depict revelatory moments in their lives, a tradition Heatley carries on in his debut collection. At first glance, the often crudely drawn figures, condensed into sometimes maddeningly repetitive panels, give the impression of caricature, particularly in scenes depicting far-out dream sequences and in a prolonged chapter detailing each sexual encounter of the author's life, which run the gamut from innocent summer-camp smooches to graphic bisexual explorations. A closer reading, however, reveals the depth of Heatley's insight into his own character and, by extension, society at large. An unflinching, occasionally awkward chapter illustrating the author's relationship with black friends and acquaintances showcases the struggle of a white man whose love and respect for black music and culture elicits a range of reactions, from true acceptance and brotherhood to outright hostility and righteous indignation. While the aforementioned sections and subsequent meditations on the author's relationships with his divorced parents are uneven in their efforts to convey larger themes and insights, the concluding chapter, "Kin," is a marvel of storytelling economy. By turns touching and comical, it takes the seemingly mundane history of a typical American family and turns it into a mini-epic, a rivetingly intimate narrative that does far more than convey the history of how Heatley's great-grandparents cametogether-it also serves as a microcosm of what makes the combination of text and art so well-suited to the autobiographical genre. Consistently engaging and occasionally self-indulgent, with sporadic moments of excellence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375425394
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 987,041
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 12.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Heatley played the Baby Jesus at a Christmas pageant in 1974, months after he was born. A few years later, his family moved to Teaneck, NJ, where they became disenchanted with Catholicism and joined an Episcopal church which might have had the worse liturgical music in the country. Heatley was confirmed at the age of 13 and stopped going to church the following year. After a decade-and-a-half of self-destructive behavior, he had a spiritual awakening while visiting California in 2001—about which, more later. Heatley now lives in Jackson Heights, NY, with his wife Rebecca Gopoian (an agnostic, Jewish-Armenian poet), and their two awesome children. This is his first book. Go easy on him.
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