Sunday 12 January 2014

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney

Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suffering from (but enjoying) extreme mania, and terrified that medication would cause her to lose creativity, she began a long struggle over many years to find mental stability while retaining her creativity. 
Searching to make sense of the popular idea of the 'crazy artist', she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. 
She also researches the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, including the strengths and limitations of various treatments and medications, and what studies tell us about the conundrum of attempting to "cure" an otherwise brilliant mind. 
Darkly funny and intensely personal, Forney's memoir provides a humorous but authentic glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist's work, as she shares her own story through black-and-white graphic images and prose.

 Marbles is a graphic memoir by American cartoonist Ellen Forney and was published here in the UK by Constable & Robinson on 15 August 2013.

The saying goes; "A picture paints a thousand words", and this book is the perfect example of that saying, but the words alongside the cartoons that Forney has drawn to describe her battle with bi-polar add another dimension to the pictures.  Alone, the cartoons are brilliant, they express her innermost feelings perfectly, but add her words and you are taken to the very extremes of her illness.

Ellen Forney started to write Marbles in 2008, ten years after the events that she tells about actually took place.  She has been able to look back, with honesty, and with a little humour on what was an extremely difficult, challenging time in her life.   Her pain and distress are captured in the cartoon images of herself.  Her usually bright face with the Betty Boop eyes changes as the illness grips her, and at times she depicts herself so vividly that it is almost painful to see how she imagined herself, and her life.

Her battle against the medication regime, worrying that pills would kill her creativity.  Her research into other artists through the years who have suffered, and her comparisons to their lives.  Her discovery of yoga, her conversations with her psychiatrist, with herself, with her family and friends.   All of these are here, in full detail and the pain shines through.

Marbles is a wickedly funny, yet painfully truthful look at how bi-polar affects a person, and those around them.  Ellen Forney has not hidden anything, and faced her challenges head-on.  The book is frank, honest and funny.  The illustrations are hard-hitting and at times, desperately sad.

A book that pulls the reader in from the very first page, it is an illuminating read that looks honestly at bi-polar and how one extraordinary woman coped.

Cartoonist Ellen Forney is the author of NYT bestseller Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, and the 2012 “Genius Award” winner in Literature from Seattle's The Stranger. She collaborated with Sherman Alexie on the National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, created the Eisner-nominated comic books I Love Led Zeppelin and Monkey Food, and has taught comics at Cornish College of the Arts since 2002. She grew up in Philadelphia and has lived in Seattle, Washington since 1989. Ellen swims and does yoga, and fixes things with rubber bands and paper clips.

For more information about the author and her work, visit her website   Find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @ellen_forney

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