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.”
"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
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.
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.