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Epileptic Hardcover – January 4, 2005

4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The first half of French cartoonist David B.'s astonishing L'Ascension du Haut Mal appeared in English a few years ago, but this is the first time the whole book has been translated, and it's one of the greatest graphic novels ever published. Epileptic is a memoir of B.'s evolution into an artist, how learning to re-envision and recreate the world with his eyes and hands became his escape route from the madness and disease that might have destroyed him. B.'s family becomes involved with the shady alternative medicine world in France circa 1970 in an attempt to help his epileptic, unstable older brother. What B. picks up from that culture, from the military history he obsesses over and from his brother's cruel delusions is the raw material of his art: his stylized bodies and objects, which look like woodcuts and urn drawings, and especially his constant conflation of physical reality and symbolic value. With B.'s parents consumed with finding a cure, and his brother's quality of life deteriorating, B.'s dreams of a normal childhood are constantly undermined by his brother's illness, to be replaced by a waking and dreaming life filled with demons.This struggle becomes Epileptic's narrative core. B.'s artwork is magnificent—gorgeously bold, impressionistic representations of the world not as it is but as he's taught himself to perceive it—especially in the heartbreaking dream sequences near the end of the book. B.'s illustrations constantly underscore his writing's wrenching psychological depth; readers can literally see how the chaos of his childhood shaped his vision and mind.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–The cartoonist's memoir of growing up in a family in which his brother's grand mal epilepsy regularly took center stage is packaged here in its entirety. Although the first part of this book appeared in English in 2002, published by L'Association, there is no demarcation within the current volume to show where that break in the story occurred–nor does there need to be. David B. reports on the childhood adventures and interests he and his siblings shared–including warrior fantasies, a fascination with World War II, and drawing–and the family's increasing involvement in seeking help for coping with the epilepsy. The latter half of the complete work continues through adolescence and into manhood, including David B.'s education in art college and his founding of L'Association. His brother's failure to respond for any duration to any form of treatment or to adjust to life with a chronic disease is presented with unsentimental but humane forthrightness. The heavily inked images include many hallucinatory panels, and subplots involve the grandparents' prejudices, David's developing relationships outside the family, and his continued interest in his family. While the final difficulties revolve around the author and his inability to become a father, most of the book is both accessible and of high interest to teens.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375423184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423185
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
To people who reject newer narrative forms, I have always said that genius surfaces in every medium. The graphic novel MAUS is a good proof. Now, I have found another one in this fine work by David B. Epileptic is the life story, actually, of the author/artist, and his family as they go through the profoundly moving events surrounding David's older brother's epilepsy. I must say that the casual cruelty to which this child was subjected by the community was shocking. While it is true that that is the basic core around which the story develops, it is also about David's coming to grips with his own personal fears and demons, along with his development as an artist. It was interesting to see how much quackery his family was subjected to -- the desperate parents who love their son so much that they try anything at all that seems to offer hope. At any rate, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject, and also anyone who is interested in outstanding graphic work.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book from the perspective of having a family member with epilepsy. Not only is this a great "graphic novel," it accurately portrays the experience one has living with a family member that is afflicted. It was astonishing to me that the author's family was so heavily involved with alternative therapies. I can identify since that has been a factor in our family too. Macrobiotics played a prominent role in both cases initially but without effect. Reading about their journey left me not knowing whether to laugh or cry since so many of those experiences are familiar.

I knew I was going to identify with this book after reading page 10. On that page is a picture of many doctors making a big ring around the patient and his parents. It is so typical of the endless search for a treatment that will bring back the person that we knew before the seizures started. One phenomenon this book so accurately captures is a feeling of near helplessness as the seizures come and go in spite of medical therapy. Then with poor control the afflicted individual can slowly slide down a path of mental deterioration.

I was impressed with how many alternative therapies were tried before the family gave up. Each new alternative therapy was like the hope of a "cure" dangling just out of reach. They seemed to go through the range of conventional medical therapies offered at the time as well. Possibly, frustration with conventional medicine, due to unrealistic expectations, leads one to explore the other paths of unconventional treatments.

The artwork is magnificent. The symbolism is wonderful.
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Format: Hardcover
This has got to be one of the most inventive and stirring "graphic novels" ever published. (Actually the term graphic novel is a misnomer here because it's a non-fiction memoir.) The story concerns how David B grew up in France under the shadow of his brother's illness. His brother had severe epilepsy, with serious seizures every day, and ended up chronically ill and unstable, both physically and mentally. While the family wasted their time and hopes on all sorts of homeopathic quacks and mystical charlatans, David B felt himself battling insanity and loneliness, perhaps convinced that epilepsy would get him too, after already destroying the stability of his family. It's a unique life story, but what possibly matters more here is David B's incredible artwork. His work is overwhelmingly dark, with a great amount of black ink illustrating both literal and allegorical darkness. His style also greatly utilizes frightening surrealism, and he has a great ability to illustrate fear and frustration symbolically. My favorite example is David B's depiction of his brother's epilepsy as a Chinese dragon that erupts from his brother's body and looms ominously over the family, while his brother himself is later depicted as a dark and threatening bogeyman when his behavior is damaged by seizures and psychosis. In addition to being a truly scary and saddening story of how regular people must deal with a loved one's terrifying illness, this book is also a feast for the eyes, with superbly eye-catching and thought-provoking artwork. [~doomsdayer520~]
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Format: Paperback
Deep inside, every creator wants to complete a single, definitive piece of work which encompasses all of his or her greatest skills - something by which he or she will be remembered. If they're lucky, they will manage this task and have the completed effort lauded and shown much support and respect. For L'Association's David B., Epileptic is doubtless the artist's coup de grace. The concept of the book stuck in Monsieur B.'s head for twenty years prior to its publication, and this incubatory period is quite evident in the reading.

Epileptic is unapologetically autobiographical. Young David B. (née Pierre-Francois) grew up in France with a younger sister and an elder brother, the latter of whom was diagnosed with epilepsy from about the age of seven. During this time, very little was known about the disease outside of medical circles, so David's brother Jean-Christophe was doubly-cursed; He would fall down in the streets of Orleans (or Bourges, or Paris), and would face harassment from passers-by to police officers, who thought the child was simply "fou" (crazy) or on drugs. Eventually, he was abandoned by his friends and certain non-immediate family members.

His immediate family, of course, held on to whatever hope was offered. Going beyond the traditional medical field of the time, Jean-Christophe's parents involved the children in a multitude of holistic healing approaches: Macrobiotics, acupuncture, massage... practically anything being offered in 1960s France held a glimmer of hope for the suffering child and his family. "It was the only thing we had left," says Mrs. B. "We soon realized that we had far fewer means than many to care for Jean-Christophe... I was blindly groping for an answer.
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