Customer Review

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intensely personal look at bipolar disorder, November 21, 2012
This review is from: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir (Paperback)
Ellen Forney's graphic novel Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me is one of those that instantly appealed to me. I enjoy graphic novels, and for some reason, I really enjoy memoirs in the comic format (I don't particularly like memoirs in other formats). I don't know much about mental illness, so I thought reading about it from the POV of someone who deals with it on a daily basis would be a good way for me to learn more.

The book is about a bipolar woman struggling to be normal. She is diagnosed with bipolar disorder right around the time she reaches age 30 and shares a very intimate story about her struggles with it. Forney is an artist, and a lot of the medication prescribed for bipolar disorder can inhibit creativity. Forney doesn't want to lose her edge or her inspiration, so she isn't sure that she wants to be medicated. But at the same time, she hates the ups and downs of manic-depression and wants very much to get healthy.

Forney does a lot of research into artists that struggled with mental illness, pointing out that many of the world's great artists struggled with some sort of disease while working at their art. Edvard Munch's The Scream is an iconic painting that could be a visual representation of a horrible hallucination. Sylvia Plath's writing was heavily influenced by her stay in a mental hospital. Etc., etc. Forney wonders if she will lose her edge by getting better.

This is an intensely personal memoir, sometimes uncomfortably so. Forney tells her story in simple, black and white drawings (though the art she shares from her personal journal is much more detailed and complex), but the events themselves are not at all simple. Bipolar disorder has many, many symptoms. For example, she shares a story about how she once flirted with a wall, partly as a joke and partly because she was just really turned on at the time. She also shares socially awkward and inappropriate conversations that she has with complete strangers, only realizing later that she made people feel ill at ease. Her highs through manic times and lows through the depressive times just exhaust her and wear her out, and she hates being so inconsistent all the time. I didn't realize until this book just how imprecise the medication for bipolar disorder is. There are so many different treatments, and people react to them in so many ways, and it's so much more an art than a science. But for the patient, it can seem like a never-ending trip through Hell, never finding something that works. Forney details all of this in a truly heart-felt memoir.

One thing to note: Forney smokes a lot of pot. As does her mother, who is a doctor. Forney thinks it's really cool that she and her mom are both stoners. Forney is also very open about her sexual encounters. Generally, these are the types of books I avoid. If that's also the case with you, I can see why you might give this one a miss. But I found that learning more about Forney's journey was well worth a little bit of discomfort on my end, so I hope you stretch your boundaries a bit, too.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Chapati
(VINE VOICE)   

Location: Chicago

Top Reviewer Ranking: 6,451