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Epileptic (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Paperback – July 4, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

David B. is one of the founders of the French experimental comics collective L'Association, and this hallucinatory work (the first of two volumes) is a sort of refracted story of his childhood when he was known as Pierre-Fran‡ois. On a literal level, it's a fascinating memoir of how his brother's epilepsy became the driving force of his family's life in the 1960s and '70s. Desperate to find a cure for his brother's condition, his parents turn to ascetic macrobiotic cults, deeply esoteric spiritualists and more in search of something that might help him. They encounter all manner of cruelty and quackery but occasionally find something that helps. B.'s own fascination with history and war seems to protect him from the despair that perpetually surrounds the family. His visual retelling of their suffering is a masterpiece of surrealistic cartooning and fantastic imagery. Readers see B. as a child; as his mind blurs the distinction between reality, metaphor and fiction, so does his art. He draws a macrobiotic healer as a cartoon tiger, and fills the book with iconic metaphors for disease (epilepsy is like a demon from a cave drawing). His has a fascination with Swedenborgian mysticism and Samurai warriors, who are vehicles for gorgeously stylized b&w illustrations of warfare and bloodletting. The narrative thread peels aside for digressions to depict young Pierre-Fran‡ois' dreams or to carefully denote the family's endless efforts to find relief for their son and ultimately for themselves. Almost every panel is a graphic balancing act between representation and psychological distortion. This is truly a remarkable and powerful piece of comics narration.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This autobiographical work plumbs the psychological, social, and symbolic reaches of the author's experiences in a family that must deal with a devastating disease. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in France's Loire Valley, Jean-Christophe developed grand mal epilepsy around the age of 11. Pierre-Francois, nine, observes his brother's battle with the physical and social implications of the disease; their parents' efforts to find management of it through medical, macrobiotic, and even psychic interventions; and the author's own development in this milieu as a boy obsessed with history and warfare and as a dedicated artist. This is a full-strength novel with well-developed characters, subplots concerning both World Wars, and riffs on the popular culture of the period in which hip Westerners looked to the East for solutions to health and spiritual maladies. David B.'s black-and-white panels spin with Jungian figures of serpents and offer snapshots of commune kitchens, woodlots haunted by his recently deceased grandfather, and street alleys where neighborhood children fantasize the distant past and uncharted future. This volume comprises half of the eight titles originally published in French, and readers will eagerly await its companion. Teens who have read Don Trembath's Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit (Orca, 2000) or Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir (Random, 2000) may find this book to be the one that encourages them to become aficionados of sophisticated, graphic-novel literature.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Reprint edition (July 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714689
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David B. is one of France's finest cartoonists and a co-founder of the legendary L'Association collective. He is the author of many books of comics
including The Armed Garden, Noctural Conspiracies, and Epileptic which was awarded Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Scenario
and the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist. Incidents in the Night Book One was nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the Eisner Awards.
He lives and works in Paris, France.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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