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My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – September 30, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Description

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.

Amazon Exclusive: David Heatley's My Upside Down Brain

David Heatley's book is on Amazon...but what does David Heatley think about that? See Heatley at ages 8, 15, and 33 in this comic, My Upside Down Brain, drawn exclusively for Amazon.

My Upside Down Brain

From Booklist

Autobiography, particularly of the self-lacerating variety, has been a staple of alternative comics since such groundbreaking 1970s and ’80s works as Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Heatley presents his life thematically. He opens with his entire “Sex History,” from prekindergarten explorations to postmarital attempts to kick his addiction to masturbation and including vividly disquieting pages from a dream journal. Subsequent sections depict a life’s worth of encounters with African Americans and relations with Mom, Dad, and other kin. From it all, we acquire a comprehensive portrait, from mildly troubled youth and conflicted sexuality to recent religious conversion and fatherhood. Like Chris Ware, Heatley uses postage-stamp-sized panels to cram a massive amount of narrative onto each page. But his naive, slapdash drawings couldn’t be farther from Ware’s neurotically meticulous style; their lack of sophistication implies an unshielded honesty. Although more conventional prose memoirs may be the ones ensconced on best-seller lists, it’s hard to imagine Heatley’s story being told as effectively in any other medium than comics. --Gordon Flagg

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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542539X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425394
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.7 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book should be titled TMI - he exposes waaaaaay too much about himself, and doesn't think about the implications. (he loses friendships because they don't like the way they are portrayed, and seemed amazed that people would consider him bisexual, after he depicts himself having sexual encounters with both genders!) I actually liked some of the stories and found the author sympathetic, but the artwork is extremely primitive, the panels cluttered (some to the point of being illegible) and it's hard to tell the characters apart. The editing is off - his wife had two babies within three months of each other!
Another reviewer said this book us one you will clutch to your heart or throw out - I wanted to embrace it, but the bad art was a serious turn off. People will think I'm intolerant and like the critics who lambasted the Impressionists, too stupid to understand great art - whatever. I fall into the group who throws this book out.
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Format: Hardcover
This graphic autobiography is a collection of David Heatley's comics that are darkly and explicitly funny. He leaves very little to the imagination as he takes us through his sex life (and eventually his love life), his relationships, good and bad, with people of other races, and his relationship with his parents and family.

As an autobiography, the book gives us rare insight into the feelings and experience of another human being. It doesn't hold anything back, and doesn't let us as readers, either. You might put the book down in disgust after the first couple of pages, or read in mesmerized fascination as David alternately destroys and rebuilds his life. In neither case, will you be entirely comfortable. That is good. What David does brilliantly here is hold up the weakness and frailty of the human condition, then show us that it is possible to overcome it to be something more than what we were.

The book is graphic in more than one sense. It is as much about the drawings as the text. They are simple but effective, but in many cases the subject matter is very sexually graphic-about what you would expect in a book in which one section is titled "Sex." He draws his characters as real human beings with or without their clothes. This is one comic book that you don't leave out for the children to see.

As I read through My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, a theme emerged of needing to ask ourselves the tough questions. What is sex? What is love? Why are they different? Am I a racist? Do I really know my Mom or Dad, or even myself?

For those with an open mind, this book will help you ask these questions of yourself.

Armchair Interviews says: Thought-provoking read.
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Format: Hardcover
Presented in adult comic form, with all illustrations, speech quotes and accompanying commentary provided by the artist/author, this volume brings together a series of `strips' of biographical vignettes and very personal reflections of a `life so far experienced'. Accessible to anyone interested to explore a first-person view of American urban youth culture (and its discontents) of the 1980s and 1990s, and even if not enjoying the rather black humour, this work certainly supplies many document factoids and opinions for the modern comparative cultural anthropologist. For those with psychoanalytic leanings, this comic strip collection will perhaps offer casebook evidence of a personal (hang-up) diary undergoing Freudian catharsis, as a middle-aged artist portrays himself as a younger man.

Divided into 5 sections, the first two were of most interest to the current reviewer (the latter 3 concerned with parents were much less entertaining, and certainly less funny, than the likes of `The Modern Parents' of the British monthly adult comic `Viz'. Blatantly honest in reportage (including sexually explicit illustrations, tho' slightly censored in places, and containing street language unacceptable to many), the first chapter is openly exhibitionist with regards the author/artist's sexual history covering the initial 30 yrs of his life. Different numbers of years are unequally represented over some 100 strips, with some covering as few as a single picture, others more than 10 strips of a page. Continuity is not ambiguous, however, and will be of much documentary interest to both the social and psychosexual historian of the era. The final 8 strips suggest a `coming to terms' with (instead of a `coming out' as some might have expected !
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked Heatley's autobiographical comics a lot. I first read "Portrait of My Mom" and "Portrait of My Dad" in the Graphic Fiction anthology (Vol 2) and was intrigued. My Brain is Hanging Upside Down contains these two stories plus others. First of all, the artwork: While not drawn in a beautiful or meticulous style as compared with other comic or graphic novelists, it is the overall design and pacing of the comics that stands out - among the best I've seen. Even though the panels are small, they flow well and are easy to follow. Small touches like the transitions and footnotes, or the "transparent views" in Sex history, are great. Although I liked the whole book, I'd have to say that the best two chapters are the ones about his Mom and Dad - he gives a view of his parents, through a series of vignettes & details that are totally realistic and engaging - critical, loving and hilarious all at the same time. When you are done reading the book, you will find yourself recreating your own "histories" in your mind similar to the way Heatley does.
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