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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on June 4, 2014
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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on September 30, 2008
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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on February 6, 2011
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 !), with the main character's finally claiming to enjoy a heterosexual relationship as a family man.

Of even more interest to some, and for the same reasons as expressed above, the second (and largest) `chapter' explores unusually candid, if quirky, snapshot viewpoints, as expressed by a white teenager (the artist/author) trying to live peaceably amongst African-American friendships through an era of racial tension and `troubled' neighbourhoods. Indeed, the issues explored here provide valuable first-person reflections concerning the tensions associated with both racial integration and isolationist perspectives, whilst also addressing early testimony (perhaps unwitting on the part of the author here), with regards gun-related school shooting incidents.

Also himself a rap/techno lyricist, sociocultural historians (and less the psychoanalysts this time ?), may find the addition of commentary with regards contemporary street and ethnic music to be of interest - though others may be completely lost to the significance of these frequent references (in the same way mention of the adult comic Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and Cheech & Chong lyrics will mean little to the current generation !). Indeed the very title of this book is taken from a pop-song of the current era as portrayed (The Ramones, 1985), which otherwise has little, if anything to say about the brain, apart from a single strip panel in `Dad' called `Machine', which shows a video-gaming machine-like set up which "can generate a map of how your brain stores information". Altogether, this book is a read not for other than the open-minded, in search of adult comic relief.

Dr. Tony Dickinson,
Academic Research Laboratory, HK.
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on February 2, 2010
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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on October 31, 2015
Love this memoir, really creative earthy art and wildly personal and interesting stories. Very interesting and honest work.
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on November 16, 2015
A book for people who like to read more serious comics. Heatley tells the stories with great honesty and insight.
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on September 30, 2008
Biographies can be so interesting, and they run the full gamut from tragic to comic and everywhere inbetween. They can either move you, or bore you with their incessant, seemingly irrelevant details.

That's how I find "My Brain is Upside Down". He divides the book into five sections, sex, race, mom, dad, and kin. Given the subject matter, it is probably the best way for Mr Heatley to chronicle his life. Each of the movements in the book are blunt, and to the point. However, as truthful as they are, they do not necessarily belong in a public forum.

Graphically, the art teeters on the edge of underground. As a New York cartoonist, he is highly regarded, and his work draws raves from Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and Dan Painter. His op-ed pieces like "Thoughts on a Subway" are considered critical successes. As a long time comic/illustrated fiction reader, I would take issue with that. Largely, his panels are too small, and cluttered. Surprisingly, the clutered art matches the cluttered story telling, and that would be why this book works at the level it does.

Mainstream comic readers will find this unappealing, while connossieurs of 'new york-underground' style will rave about it.

Tim Lasiuta

[...]
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on October 17, 2008
The excruciating beauty of David Heatley's work lies in its truthfulness, both raw and tender, both harrowing and endearing. Like watching a Lars von Trier film in storyboard form, at times you'll wish you'd closed the book before it was too late -- but inevitably you won't. An astounding achievement.
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on February 12, 2009
While reading My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, I guarantee you will laugh outloud, and not necessarily at the author, but at your own circumstances. You will ask yourself, "how can anyone know what I am going through?" Another reviewer rated this as "self-entitled and whiny"--but that's exactly the author's point--to bring out the "pity-party" animal in all of us, expose it, and shed some light on it, in the end to bring us around to a more relaxed and self-aware view of who we are. Through humor and incredible drawings, reading My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down is a truly transformative experience!
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on October 7, 2008
We've watched David Heatley grow as an artist and as a person, and loved his work as he appeared in the NY Times, the New Yorker and numerous prestigious Comic Journals. His wonderful drawings - self and life-revealing - and his excellent prose invigorate and challenge, as they entertain and delight. This is Great work!! A must have book.

MH
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