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Epileptic (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Paperback – July 4, 2006
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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-Franois. 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-Franois' 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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i myself am an epileptic and there are fewer diseases that this book relates to than just ones that are 'out of control.' the effects of epilepsy are far more psychological than physical. where a cancer victim is at the mercy of the disease and body, the epileptic, like many schizophrenics is affronted by dark and sinister shadows, lurking demons. however, it's one thing for an epileptic to be able to voice this. i find it amazing that David B., the brother and author, found so many ways of accurately depicting the demons' influence and sympathetically already fighting in his own way to overcome them with the tools of a child. both graphically and through the course of the story you learn of the ways the family and David B. adapt to confront the shadow, though the epilepsy ultimately remains intractable.
another thing about this book that opened my eyes, is that for the epileptic, the story is told in first, second, and third person. for the family member, where it may always seems superficially to be a disease to which the family remains a third party, one may realize the struggles endured that were ignored. if i were to ask my mother how it felt for her to go through many of the struggles faced in this book, she might not think much of them. but upon reading and seeing the struggles afresh, she might realize that she had much more at stake than anyone, even herself, gave her credit.
this book is so moving and deep because of David B.s ability to so comprehensively annotate each of five family members struggle. the autobiographical aspect takes a backseat to the chronicling of a dark disease that is never cured, much like alcoholism, but only ever treated and hoped against. the ending is particularly potent on this point: it is a tenuous grasp that is held to consciousness, and a varying relationship any of us have to reality, but when we hold together we arent scattered below. .mfg