Marbles
Cartoonist Ellen Forney explores the relationship between “crazy” and “creative” in this graphic memoir of her bipolar disorder, woven with stories of famous bipolar artists and writers.Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her to lose creativity, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passions and creativity.Searching to make sense of the popular concept 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 visceral glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist’s work, as she shares her own story through bold black-and-white images and evocative prose.

Marbles Details

TitleMarbles
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 6th, 2012
PublisherAvery
ISBN1592407323
ISBN-139781592407323
Number of pages256 pages
Rating
GenreSequential Art, Graphic Novels, Comics, Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Health

Marbles Review

  • Melki
    January 20, 2015
    I've always maintained that I failed as an artist because I am not tormented enough, though I'm pretty sure lack of talent and creative ambition are just as much to blame. Still, I wonder - would I be a better artist if I were a little bit "crazy?"Studies seem to prove it's possible. There is a long list of writers and artists who suffered from depression and other disorders, yet managed to turn out astonishing works of art.For Ellen Forney, this was the question. Would treating her bipolar diso I've always maintained that I failed as an artist because I am not tormented enough, though I'm pretty sure lack of talent and creative ambition are just as much to blame. Still, I wonder - would I be a better artist if I were a little bit "crazy?"Studies seem to prove it's possible. There is a long list of writers and artists who suffered from depression and other disorders, yet managed to turn out astonishing works of art.For Ellen Forney, this was the question. Would treating her bipolar disorder kill her creativity?Just look at some of the side effects of the popular drug Lithium: hand tremors, blurred vision and cognitive dulling. Any of these could be deadly for the career of an artist. Forney takes us along on her journey to discover if she can control her mood swings and still create art. It's a sometimes disturbing trip as panels show her both manic and full of life, then curled into a sad and lumpy ball on the couch. She takes fistfuls of drugs, including pills to treat the side effects caused by pills to treat side effects. It was an occasionally scary look at a disorder I knew almost nothing about. Four stars for this fascinating book about depression that's not depressing, plus an extra for the terrific artwork.
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  • jo
    April 19, 2013
    this is so good. so so so good. i'm going to say, first of all, that the quality of the artwork is amazing. great drawing, sometimes really simple, sometimes really complex, with great utilization of über cool graphic devices (notably, a spiral notebook that seems like the real thing, ellen's real notebook, photographed, and may or may not be). when i first got the book i quickly scanned it and saw that it dealt with bipolar disorder solely in medical terms, i.e. as something the only effective this is so good. so so so good. i'm going to say, first of all, that the quality of the artwork is amazing. great drawing, sometimes really simple, sometimes really complex, with great utilization of über cool graphic devices (notably, a spiral notebook that seems like the real thing, ellen's real notebook, photographed, and may or may not be). when i first got the book i quickly scanned it and saw that it dealt with bipolar disorder solely in medical terms, i.e. as something the only effective treatment of which would be the right medication cocktail. now, i don't like that. at all. i really believe that mood disorders are a very complex mixture of genes and environment -- i believe that in everything human you can never take the environment out of the equation -- so i was sorry to see that the book kind of sold medication as the only approach to ellen's terrible pain. the book sat on my shelf for a while and then it sat in a friend's house for another while and now i read it, and it's really not like that. i mean, it is like that, but, also, it isn't. yes, ellen only sees a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist's only overt contribution to her well-being is finding the right meds (which she eventually does). but the book is also very complex about the relation between ellen and karen, the psychiatrist, in that they have regular sessions for 13 years (and counting, i suppose), and in these sessions ellen really finds an anchor, a warmth, a haven of acceptance, love, and help. also, the whole role of medication is problematized, analyzed, discussed, investigated, studied. this is cool. ellen definitely comes out in this extraordinary memoir as well-rounded, interesting, and intriguing. this is the perfect companion to Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother?: bechdel approaches her pain through psychoanalysis, fornay through medication, but there is the same level of complexity, engagement with one's life, and intelligence. seriously, this is brilliant and captivating and it was hard to put it down. it seems to me increasingly important, as i think about these issues, to understand that there are things that work for someone and things that work for someone else. there's a strong strain in the "survivor" community that is virulently anti-drugs. i think it hinges on some people's disastrous experience with drugs. drugs can have terrible consequences on some bodies, and positive consequences on some other bodies. when you are someone whose life has been ruined by psych drugs, you tend to totalize your experience and proclaim them the devil. but they are not the devil for everyone. there are people whose life has been saved by psych drugs. the other thing is that ellen's experience of psychiatry is incredibly gentle. her psychiatrist seems absolutely fabulous. this is not a common experience. many psychiatrists (all too many) are dismissive, arrogant, and belittling of their patients. this happens all the time. so if you work on getting better with a psychiatrist who actually listens to what you say, takes in what you want, and honors your experience with respect to what does and does not work for you, medication might be a much better experience than if you deal with a psychiatrist who simple decides what you should take/do/feel/etc. i had a student once whose psychiatrist regularly mocked her. whenever she had something to say for herself, he'd say that she was being manic and to calm down. this was a kid. a college kid. i told her, why don't you change psychiatrist? but when someone gets into your head and makes you feel that he is god and you are an ant, you keep going back. anyway, great book. thank you ellen for writing it. i don't know how you guys (you, alison, etc.) do it. this stuff must be harder than hell to put down on paper. so, again, thank you.
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  • Paul Bryant
    December 29, 2013
    If you’re bi-polar, don’t look for much friendly banter with your psychiatrist. ELLEN : I don’t want to take lots of heavy meds like Lithium.SHRINK : Well, for untreated bi-polar, there’s a high suicide rate and an increased chance of hospitalization. (This is as chummy as Ellen's shrink ever gets.)The following weekSHRINK : How’s your sleep?ELLEN : All over the place.SHRINK : Are you taking the Klonopin?ELLEN : Yeah.SHRINK : Let’s raise it to 2mg.The following weekSHRINK : I’m concerned about h If you’re bi-polar, don’t look for much friendly banter with your psychiatrist. ELLEN : I don’t want to take lots of heavy meds like Lithium.SHRINK : Well, for untreated bi-polar, there’s a high suicide rate and an increased chance of hospitalization. (This is as chummy as Ellen's shrink ever gets.)The following weekSHRINK : How’s your sleep?ELLEN : All over the place.SHRINK : Are you taking the Klonopin?ELLEN : Yeah.SHRINK : Let’s raise it to 2mg.The following weekSHRINK : I’m concerned about how your platelet level is dropping on the Depakote but let’s stick with that and add some Celexa. (I imagine this is intoned in a monotone like a chant).ELLEN : I’m worried that all these meds will make me lose my creative energy.SHRINK : Well, maybe they will and maybe they won’t. We’ll have to wait and observe.ELLEN : Gee, well, I guess you’re right about that.The following weekELLEN : I’m so sensitive and weepy all the time! Is this mixed states or rapid cycling? (Getting into the jargon.)SHRINK : Well, rapid cycling means four or more episodes in a year and mixed states means symptoms of both mania and depression. Maybe we just need to adjust your meds.Urrrrghhhh. So shrinks either state the blindingly obvious (“You seem to be a little bit down” when the client is bawling her head off) or chant the mantra “we need to adjust your meds”. And I don't know if Ellen is libelling her shrink, but the way she adjusts her meds is to flick through a text book and say "Here's one we haven't tried before, let's try that one."THE SUB-TEXT OF THIS BOOKIt’s an investigation into the distressing question : are humans just soft machines?We’re all very happy with the idea that our bodies are machines – cut that bit off and transplant a new one in, and I’ll be right as rain! - or even replacing limbs with actual machinery! – that’s no problem. But we get more ticklish when we think of our brains in the same way. In this book, Ellen is forever struggling with not wanting her creative self which is uniquely her to be crushed by Lithium and other heavy stabilisers. We’ve all seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so we know what she means – the fear of the chemical cosh. Her worries aren’t misplaced.The psychiatric industry says that if we shove a drug in your brain you will feel whatever the drug programs you to feel. Your mind is just a lot of complex chemical reactions. If we get the meds right, you’ll feel okay. But right now, the science is in its infancy. Come back in a while – when we've done all the research there’ll be no bipolar people, no schizophrenics, no mental illness at all. This is something we can figure out. So I think I would say two things – yes, we are all soft machines, I think it’s obvious, no souls, nothing like that, from nowheresville camest we, and back to nowheresville wilt we goeth; and, all bipolar sufferers should maybe come back in a hundred years or so. Everything will be fine then, if we have still got a functioning planet, of course. Between then and now, you're stuck with the chanting shrinks : "I think we should adjust your meds, I think we should adjust your meds, I think we should adjust your meds...."I should add that this candid book is way more optimistic than I am!
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  • Book Riot Community
    April 7, 2015
    This is a graphic novel, likewise a memoir, about Ellen Forney’s life before she was diagnosed, being diagnosed, not quite accepting that diagnosis, and then slowly coming to grips with it and with the medication. You’ll note that these books tend to follow similar paths, because on the whole people tend to follow similar paths. Her art style is amazing, simple and cartoonish (except when it’s precise and detailed), and just from her art style and storytelling alone, I realized I’ll read her on This is a graphic novel, likewise a memoir, about Ellen Forney’s life before she was diagnosed, being diagnosed, not quite accepting that diagnosis, and then slowly coming to grips with it and with the medication. You’ll note that these books tend to follow similar paths, because on the whole people tend to follow similar paths. Her art style is amazing, simple and cartoonish (except when it’s precise and detailed), and just from her art style and storytelling alone, I realized I’ll read her on any topic now. This was the book I was most excited to read, thanks to seeing some pages in a Huffington Post article about the book. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint. Go read it. Go read everything by her. It’s definitely Not For Kids, but it’s all excellent.From Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Books About Bipolar Disorder http://bookriot.com/2015/04/06/buy-bo...
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  • ☆☽Erica☾☆
    December 31, 2015
    A really great and creative work documenting the author's experience with bipolar disorder. The book is fun and imaginative, yet still extremely dark. She also makes the story somewhat easy to swallow.Great for anyone who is interested in learning more about bipolar disorder or mental illness in an entertaining way.
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  • Vitor Martins
    February 23, 2017
    Não existe maneira mais didática de explicar como funciona a mente de uma pessoa bipolar do que DESENHANDO. E a Ellen Forney fez isso muito bem!Além do seu traço muito lindo e da narrativa visual que mostra de maneira muita visual as fases da vida da autora (com ilustras grandes e detalhadas nos momentos de mania e traços sujos e bagunçados nos momentos de depressão), a história é muito bem contada e é muito lindo ver a maneira como a Ellen cresceu a partir do momento em que foi diagnosticada co Não existe maneira mais didática de explicar como funciona a mente de uma pessoa bipolar do que DESENHANDO. E a Ellen Forney fez isso muito bem!Além do seu traço muito lindo e da narrativa visual que mostra de maneira muita visual as fases da vida da autora (com ilustras grandes e detalhadas nos momentos de mania e traços sujos e bagunçados nos momentos de depressão), a história é muito bem contada e é muito lindo ver a maneira como a Ellen cresceu a partir do momento em que foi diagnosticada com transtorno bipolar. A história tem um senso de humor muito divertido (e um pouco auto depreciativo, às vezes) e isso deixa a história mais leve nos momentos certos. Esse é um quadrinho auto-biográfico que me ensinou muitas coisas que eu não sabia e, apesar de ser uma leitura pesada em alguns momentos, eu recomendo para todo mundo que quer entender mais a respeito de bipolaridade. Adorei!
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  • Jennifer
    November 5, 2012
    This graphic memoir about a young artist struggling with manic depression is like the chatty little sister to the works of Alison Bechdel. While Forney's work is less dense than Bechdel's, it is just as interesting and forthright. I initially picked this one up because Forney is the artist/illustrator of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. But I was quickly drawn into her tale of twenty-something angst where she tried to use her bipolar diagnosis to her creative advantage, exploring This graphic memoir about a young artist struggling with manic depression is like the chatty little sister to the works of Alison Bechdel. While Forney's work is less dense than Bechdel's, it is just as interesting and forthright. I initially picked this one up because Forney is the artist/illustrator of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. But I was quickly drawn into her tale of twenty-something angst where she tried to use her bipolar diagnosis to her creative advantage, exploring the number of artists who were also known to be suffering from manic depression. For anyone who's ever wondered where creativity comes from, how our emotions play into it, and whether or not modern therapeutic drugs dampen our imaginative impulses.
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  • Ariel
    November 9, 2012
    With Marbles, Ellen Forney invites us in to the realities of what it's like to live with bipolar disorder. The blessing in this book is that it isn't harrowing or tearful (though there are times my heart wanted to hug her while I was reading) or dry, like many works on mood disorders. Instead it's frank and honest and beautiful and ugly and funny. Just like life (any life, even the lives of mysterious depressed and bipolar people).I've been a fan of Forney's comic style for many years, and the i With Marbles, Ellen Forney invites us in to the realities of what it's like to live with bipolar disorder. The blessing in this book is that it isn't harrowing or tearful (though there are times my heart wanted to hug her while I was reading) or dry, like many works on mood disorders. Instead it's frank and honest and beautiful and ugly and funny. Just like life (any life, even the lives of mysterious depressed and bipolar people).I've been a fan of Forney's comic style for many years, and the illustrations in this book are just as engaging as in the past, but it's also really interesting to see her not-so-pretty sketches. The doodles of her head and what it feels like... the version of her clawing to keep from being sucked into a deep dark void... these are moving insights into the other ways she's used art to journal and heal.I loved reading Marbles. As someone who lives with depression, Forney's book is "company" (her term) for my own journey.
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  • Julie Ehlers
    March 2, 2016
    The first time I read Marbles, I was a bit disappointed—given the title, I was expecting the book to have a strong focus on the connection between bipolar disorder and creativity, and what impact medication might have on that connection. While that topic is touched on to a certain extent, this was mainly Forney’s autobiographical account of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how it has affected her life, and the struggle to come up with a drug combo that worked for her (in all areas of her l The first time I read Marbles, I was a bit disappointed—given the title, I was expecting the book to have a strong focus on the connection between bipolar disorder and creativity, and what impact medication might have on that connection. While that topic is touched on to a certain extent, this was mainly Forney’s autobiographical account of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how it has affected her life, and the struggle to come up with a drug combo that worked for her (in all areas of her life, not just in terms of her creativity). Since I knew all this going into my second reading, I was able to appreciate the book more for what it actually is. This is an entertaining read that’s also quite informative on this topic, so if you want to learn more about bipolar disorder without investing in a longer, heavier read, I would recommend Marbles.
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  • Lily
    January 4, 2017
    3.5/5 starsMarbles follows cartoonist Ellen Forney's journey with bipolar disorder, chronicling her initial diagnosis, her struggles identifying a working combination of medications, and her decision to live a more balanced lifestyle. The subtext of the memoir expands upon Forney's attempts at making sense of the relationship between her mental state and her art, questioning whether she loses a part of her creativity in choosing to take medication. Overall, her memoir reads like a lighter versio 3.5/5 starsMarbles follows cartoonist Ellen Forney's journey with bipolar disorder, chronicling her initial diagnosis, her struggles identifying a working combination of medications, and her decision to live a more balanced lifestyle. The subtext of the memoir expands upon Forney's attempts at making sense of the relationship between her mental state and her art, questioning whether she loses a part of her creativity in choosing to take medication. Overall, her memoir reads like a lighter version of Bechdel's Fun Home while echoing themes addressed more subtly in McCloud's The Sculptor. I initially picked up this memoir to see how Forney would use art to chronicle her struggles with mental health and indeed, her artwork does not disappoint. Forney uses simple cartoons to capture some of her most diametric moods and showcases snippets of what appears to be her own art journal to express the depths of her depression. Though I had some issues with the pacing of her memoir, I enjoyed Forney's insight on the intersection between creativity and mental health and found her comments on romanticizing mental illness to be particularly poignant. Marbles was both brave and daring, yet still remained uplifting and relatable. Would recommend for those interested in creative portrayals of mental health, for fans of Bechdel's work, and to my fellow graphic novel enthusiasts.
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  • Carol
    June 12, 2014
    If you or someone you know has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder don't be frightened to pick up this book. Ellen Forney has brought bi-polar out of the closet in this brave, honest, funny and creative memoir. Your experience may not be exactly the same as hers but you're bound to see the similarities. After all, like any other illness, you will share some "symptoms".Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me is the best explanation of bi-polar I've read. That it is a graphic novel makes i If you or someone you know has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder don't be frightened to pick up this book. Ellen Forney has brought bi-polar out of the closet in this brave, honest, funny and creative memoir. Your experience may not be exactly the same as hers but you're bound to see the similarities. After all, like any other illness, you will share some "symptoms".Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me is the best explanation of bi-polar I've read. That it is a graphic novel makes it all the more compelling. Somehow I have always seen bi-polar visually and Forney's depiction hits the nail on the head. It's a gutsy, right in your face way of understanding a disorder that is often misunderstood and hard to explain. It might not be an easy read, but it is truly fascinating.If you'd like to know more of Ellen Forney's creative spirit Ellen's Blog.Frankly I'd love to read a copy of the book she facetiously mentions in her May 12th, 2014 blog post:The Bipolar Emily Post in answer to the question regarding dating"when do you tell the person that you’re crazy?" Sounds funny but all too true.
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  • Marc
    August 15, 2016
    I picked this book up at the library because the cover caught my eye and the title piqued my interest. It far exceeded my expectations. Forney's drawing style is not one that would normally appeal to me, but her unmitigated honesty and her story were endearing. The memoir essentially covers the years she spent coming to grips with being diagnosed as "bipolar" and trying to find balance (and a treatment plan with which she could still live creatively). She manages not to take herself too seriousl I picked this book up at the library because the cover caught my eye and the title piqued my interest. It far exceeded my expectations. Forney's drawing style is not one that would normally appeal to me, but her unmitigated honesty and her story were endearing. The memoir essentially covers the years she spent coming to grips with being diagnosed as "bipolar" and trying to find balance (and a treatment plan with which she could still live creatively). She manages not to take herself too seriously while still capturing the very realistic self-criticism and crushing doubt her depressive episodes delivered. Along the way, she takes a closer look at the stereotype of the "crazy artist" and what correlation exists between creativity and mental illness.Some of her other work can be seen on her website: https://www.ellenforney.com/home.htmlThis animated gif from her site does a good job of capturing her personality:
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  • Cheryl
    June 2, 2016
    I'd recommend it to just about anybody, whether or not you have or (realize that*) you know someone challenged by a mental illness. (And whether or not you're into graphic novels, as it's very easy to read.) Thank goodness my depression responds to attentive personal care because meds look troubling (though the fact that Ellen smoked pot several times a week during the four years her doctor was trying to get her the right combos and doses, without knowing of Ellen's secret habit, probably made f I'd recommend it to just about anybody, whether or not you have or (realize that*) you know someone challenged by a mental illness. (And whether or not you're into graphic novels, as it's very easy to read.) Thank goodness my depression responds to attentive personal care because meds look troubling (though the fact that Ellen smoked pot several times a week during the four years her doctor was trying to get her the right combos and doses, without knowing of Ellen's secret habit, probably made finding the right meds more difficult).So, yeah, Ellen smoked pot pretty often, used other drugs occasionally, and drew some very dramatic pictures of things like what crazy feels like.... She also drew some very graphic pictures of a lesbian porn shoot, and then just dropped that whole story... I want to know what happened to that project, because her friends are affected. And yes, she has friends. And a pretty fulfilling career. And a loving family. And she is healthy and exercises. So, just goes to show, things like that aren't always enough.Her doctor seemed mostly into pills and books, but they did talk some. One thing Karen said that might help ppl like me, ppl who have very mild cases, is: "Mania is a time of energy going out, & depression can be a time of passivity, or energy going in. This could be a time to listen, & to observe."Highly recommended to all who are even a little interested.*Odds are very good that you know someone with a mental illness even if you don't think you do. People still, unfortunately, feel stigmatized and unwilling to share, especially with people who underestimate how common mental illnesses actually are.
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  • Jenna
    February 1, 2015
    Honest and compelling personal account of one person's experience of bipolar disorder and how that person chose to deal with it. The author illustrates how a greatest (and common) fear involved in seeking mental and behavioral health was that she would lose her creativity in the exchange (she's an artist). This very creative book is a most concrete piece of evidence that one need not exchange creativity for stability! Forney is an engaging writer and talented storyteller, but best of all, her il Honest and compelling personal account of one person's experience of bipolar disorder and how that person chose to deal with it. The author illustrates how a greatest (and common) fear involved in seeking mental and behavioral health was that she would lose her creativity in the exchange (she's an artist). This very creative book is a most concrete piece of evidence that one need not exchange creativity for stability! Forney is an engaging writer and talented storyteller, but best of all, her illustrations (to my mind at least) really capture in a visceral way what the highs and lows of mania and depression are like, and how they can affect one's emotions, cognition, behavior, and relationships. I actually *felt* her illustrations. Recommended!
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  • Eve
    April 11, 2014
    Marbles is a graphic novel memoir by cartoonist Ellen Forney, that depicts 4 monumental years of her life, during which time she is diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder, and the treatment course that follows. I always find these types of books extremely insightful, but they also make me feel a little voyeuristic. Forney lets you completely into her life and mind, and although at times a little uncomfortable, she was very relatable. One thing that I appreciated from an artist’s perspective was how s Marbles is a graphic novel memoir by cartoonist Ellen Forney, that depicts 4 monumental years of her life, during which time she is diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder, and the treatment course that follows. I always find these types of books extremely insightful, but they also make me feel a little voyeuristic. Forney lets you completely into her life and mind, and although at times a little uncomfortable, she was very relatable. One thing that I appreciated from an artist’s perspective was how she used chaotic, busy panels to channel the manic frenzy of an episode. I’d find my heart racing as I read along. Then she’d change up the tone and placement of the next panels to reflect a depressive episode. That is so unique! I loved the idea! I also liked that she wrote in depth about links between great artists and mental illness in times past when medication wasn't available, and her fear of losing aspects of her talent by seeking treatment. A great read for lovers of graphic novels and psychology.
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  • Jake
    November 10, 2012
    I am biased, and love this book for many reasons. Forney's account of her own experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder provides some insight for the cases of so many who have struggled with a mood disorder. She weighs what it is to be an unbridled 'crazy artist,' a romantic concept for many creatives, with what it means to be a medicated artist. Forney's deceptively simple drawing style takes you on a fun, friendly, comfortable journey, even though her difficult stretches of depressio I am biased, and love this book for many reasons. Forney's account of her own experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder provides some insight for the cases of so many who have struggled with a mood disorder. She weighs what it is to be an unbridled 'crazy artist,' a romantic concept for many creatives, with what it means to be a medicated artist. Forney's deceptively simple drawing style takes you on a fun, friendly, comfortable journey, even though her difficult stretches of depression. Highly recommended for creative people, both 'normal' and 'crazy' alike. Anyone personally wrestling with a mood disorder, and fear what medications may do to their art should most definitely read this book.
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  • Cata
    May 1, 2016
    http://p-encadernadas.blogspot.pt/201...
  • Raina
    June 19, 2012
    OMGsogood. I'm totally proud that Ellen Forney is a pacific northwest resident. I've read everything by her I can get my hands on. But it's especially awesome that her first full-length narrative work is such a freaking triumph. It kind of blows my mind that this is her first non-collection book. I've always loved Forney's illustration style -- unlike a lot of authors, she really doesn't need color in any way. Her linework is similar to Craig Thompson's, with an accessibility similar to Alison B OMGsogood. I'm totally proud that Ellen Forney is a pacific northwest resident. I've read everything by her I can get my hands on. But it's especially awesome that her first full-length narrative work is such a freaking triumph. It kind of blows my mind that this is her first non-collection book. I've always loved Forney's illustration style -- unlike a lot of authors, she really doesn't need color in any way. Her linework is similar to Craig Thompson's, with an accessibility similar to Alison Bechdel's. Here, she includes relevant sketches from her in slightly different styles from the core narrative of the book, always to set them apart or as samples from a particular, genuine period of her life. And she reveals a lot. About how it felt to be up, or down. About her family history. About her process with her therapist. About balancing her medication needs. It's an honest unpacking of how things went down. As all the reviews and summaries will say, she focuses a bit on the ramifications of her bi-polar diagnosis as it pertains to her art. Is her (in)sanity level the reason she is creative? Will medicating her moods kill her creativity? Questions that I suspect anyone interested in art has thought about at some point. This is important. I really believe that graphic memoirs are one of the best ways to get inside someone's head. This is illuminating, educational, and touching. And hot. Let's not forget the sex appeal.
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  • Robert
    October 8, 2012
    There have been so many terrific graphic novels this year; among the ones I've read are Alison Bechdel's challenging Are You My Mother, Leela Corman's lovely Unterzakhn, Derf Backderf's horrifying My Friend Dahmer, Julia Wertz's hilarious and touching The infinite Wait, as well as the gorgeous concluding volume of Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know trilogy. Add to this stellar company Ellen Forney's autobiographical Marbles, a brave, searingly honest, often harrowing look at her diagnosis of Bipola There have been so many terrific graphic novels this year; among the ones I've read are Alison Bechdel's challenging Are You My Mother, Leela Corman's lovely Unterzakhn, Derf Backderf's horrifying My Friend Dahmer, Julia Wertz's hilarious and touching The infinite Wait, as well as the gorgeous concluding volume of Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know trilogy. Add to this stellar company Ellen Forney's autobiographical Marbles, a brave, searingly honest, often harrowing look at her diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder shortly before her 30th birthday, and her long struggle to get it under control. Bipolar is a mental disorder that is difficult to treat (there are as yet no universally effective treatments), and Forney takes us step by excruciating step on her four year road of alternating manic highs and crushing lows to a final sense of equilibrium. She also explores the relationship between mental illness and creativity, with some surprising discoveries. Marbles is highly absorbing and entertaining, and often very funny - Forney shows off her considerable cartooning chops in particular when delineating her manic episodes. It's all very informative and painfully immediate to boot. I learned a lot reading this and I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable layman with regards to mental illnesses. I personally know two people who I'd like to give this book to - one who has been recently diagnosed and another who I strongly suspect should be diagnosed. Forney's frank storytelling and superb cartooning skills make this one a Don't Miss. Five stars.
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  • Amanda L
    August 23, 2013
    Ellen Forney conveys her very complex struggle with mental illness in lighthearted comic language and sketches, with candor and a special humor that blends both the subtle and overt. She seems to be a rare combination of endearingly likable AND insufferable. I feel I know more about Ellen than after reading most any other memoir, specifically those comprised of WORDS and PROSE and the stuff of REGULAR BOOKS. That's impressive. I can relate with her and now I kinda really want to be her friend.Th Ellen Forney conveys her very complex struggle with mental illness in lighthearted comic language and sketches, with candor and a special humor that blends both the subtle and overt. She seems to be a rare combination of endearingly likable AND insufferable. I feel I know more about Ellen than after reading most any other memoir, specifically those comprised of WORDS and PROSE and the stuff of REGULAR BOOKS. That's impressive. I can relate with her and now I kinda really want to be her friend.The most enjoyable thing was seeing this maniac --literally, and for lack of anything less harsh that would adequately describe her-- who has not even a smidgen of self-awareness transform into a wholly contented and insightful woman.She strikes balance in her behavior, in her mood and in her perception of her diagnosis and what it means for her as an artist. She finds peace in her realization that lifelong treatment and artistic creativity are not mutually exclusive.
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  • Sam Quixote
    October 14, 2013
    Ellen Forney is crazy – literally! A comic book artist diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental condition that sends her moods shooting from one end of the spectrum – soaring higher than high with happiness and manic energy – to the other – skull-crushing depression and immobility – with unerring suddenness, Forney has created an honest and engaging comic book of her experience living with the illness in Marbles. The book follows her diagnosis and its impact on how she views herself and her fam Ellen Forney is crazy – literally! A comic book artist diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental condition that sends her moods shooting from one end of the spectrum – soaring higher than high with happiness and manic energy – to the other – skull-crushing depression and immobility – with unerring suddenness, Forney has created an honest and engaging comic book of her experience living with the illness in Marbles. The book follows her diagnosis and its impact on how she views herself and her family and friends’ reactions, to her concerns about how the treatment of her moods with a kaleidoscopic cocktail of drugs will affect her creativity and work. There are a lot of scenes set in Forney’s therapist’s office as they spend months and months figuring out the best combination of drugs for her, and work through her various concerns but unlike another book that followed this route – Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel - the theory and science side of her illness doesn’t overwhelm the book. Forney finds comfort in reading about other artists who were allegedly bipolar like Van Gogh, Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath, all of whom troublingly committed suicide, but also produced some of the greatest art in the world. This is also another aspect of why it’s great this book exists – for other people like Forney who’ve been diagnosed and are looking for a book to tell them it’s not the end of the world. It’s a very stark look at the author’s condition, including photo-static images from her sketchbook detailing visually how she felt while deeply depressed, and the drawings are nightmarish, like something out of Lovecraft or Bosch! Forney also captures what it’s like to be manic through some really energised page layouts, words and images cascading together, sentences toppling over the side, linked in with looping arrows – these sequences are really imaginatively presented and give the reader a look into both sides of bipolarity. I found Marbles to be a thoughtful and interesting look at a difficult condition. It shows those of us who don’t have the illness a glimpse of what it’s like for someone who does in a way that’s informative and entertaining to read. Forney’s art is excellent and her writing nicely balances factual scenes with memoir in a tone that’s humane and humourous, keeping her story moving at a nice steady pace throughout - I really enjoyed it. Plus anyone with a tattoo designed by Kaz is alright by me!
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  • Nicola Mansfield
    February 9, 2013
    Reason for Reading: This book talked to me and I had to read it. I'm bi-polar and had always been creative in various media. I had expanded into what I finally called "art" but since my various diagnoses and meds, I have not done my art or any form of creative expression besides my current so-called book reviews.This gripped me right from the beginning. Ellen is Bipolar I, while I am a milder diagnosis but still I could relate to her in every way. I ended up taking notes while reading this at it Reason for Reading: This book talked to me and I had to read it. I'm bi-polar and had always been creative in various media. I had expanded into what I finally called "art" but since my various diagnoses and meds, I have not done my art or any form of creative expression besides my current so-called book reviews.This gripped me right from the beginning. Ellen is Bipolar I, while I am a milder diagnosis but still I could relate to her in every way. I ended up taking notes while reading this at it really hit home with the connection between mood swings and creativity. I found myself crying during her description of her depression as she expressed it so well. The scene where she gets out of bed to make it to the couch to go back to sleep is heart-wrenching and was very emotional for me. That is a place I never want to find myself in ever again. The combination of Ellen's story mixed with the medical information she discovers and her own journey of finding just the right dosage of which medications is entertaining and informational. The book is going to be of much interest to those both familiar with the disorder and those coming to it with no previous knowledge. Forney also has a dark sense of humour which adds light to much of the darkness of the story. There are plenty of episodes and one-liners to laugh at. This was a brave book to write and a challenging book to read. When I realized how "real" it was going to be I wasn't sure I wanted to go there but I'm so glad I did. I have been getting back to my art in my head for the last year or so, even getting out the supplies, collecting canvases but haven't put pen, brush or glue to paper yet. Ellen has started me thinking I might just take the step and get the creativity out of my head again. A very personal book that spoke to me. A caveat. The book does contain full frontal nudity and Forney speaks openly of her bi-s*xuality, plus she is in her late 20's as the story starts so it is indeed a mature book for adults.
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  • Bekah Porter-Sandy
    December 16, 2012
    3.5 stars, really.I picked up this book because 1) I like graphic novels, and 2) I was diagnosed with severe depression this past year and was interested how a graphic novel could approach such an immense topic.Overall, I'd say Ms. Forney did a marvelous job. There were moments that stunningly captivated me, such as her sentence, "My own BRILLIANT, UNIQUE personality was neatly outlined right there in that inanimate stack of paper," and the image on pg. 70, as well as the astoundingly accurate d 3.5 stars, really.I picked up this book because 1) I like graphic novels, and 2) I was diagnosed with severe depression this past year and was interested how a graphic novel could approach such an immense topic.Overall, I'd say Ms. Forney did a marvelous job. There were moments that stunningly captivated me, such as her sentence, "My own BRILLIANT, UNIQUE personality was neatly outlined right there in that inanimate stack of paper," and the image on pg. 70, as well as the astoundingly accurate depiction on pg. 77 of a day in the life of a depressed person.Ms. Forney tackled an infinitely complex issue with wit, ingenuity, and a fresh perspective, which all amounted to me enjoying the book.However, there were aspects of the novel that made is a bit less enjoyable for me, personally. For example, I found no basis in opening chapter. It felt like an odd starting point. And while I completely OK with her being a bi-sexual, I felt like she went out of her way to include scenes that highlighted that fact and then pretended that those scenes showed her mania, when, I felt, they just over-showed that one particular aspect of her life. I thought the whole shopping mall section (if you've read the book, you'll know) was just completely unrelated to the story.Also, I felt a little disappointed in her vagueness in drawing a line connecting mental illness to creativity. I appreciate what she was attempting to do, and just for my own personal taste, I think it could have been done a bit better.I only point out what I consider to be the novel's setbacks to justify the lower-star rating, when, without those, based on just her art and her wide-open heart-full honesty deserved 5 stars. Worth a read, and can easily be accomplished in one sitting.
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  • jess
    November 3, 2012
    There was pretty much nothing I didn't love about this book. It follows Forney from her diagnosis (bipolar) through the struggles of medication - first, whether to medicate, and later, how to balance all the side effects, new meds on the market, generics, money, tapering on, tapering off. Forney ruminates on the intersection of mental illness and creative people, making lists of artists who were mentally ill and trying to figure out the link between creative thought and bipolar symptoms. The boo There was pretty much nothing I didn't love about this book. It follows Forney from her diagnosis (bipolar) through the struggles of medication - first, whether to medicate, and later, how to balance all the side effects, new meds on the market, generics, money, tapering on, tapering off. Forney ruminates on the intersection of mental illness and creative people, making lists of artists who were mentally ill and trying to figure out the link between creative thought and bipolar symptoms. The book is interesting, informative, deeply personal and touching. I have already had several really meaningful conversations about this book with friends, and I am so grateful for the depth Ellen Forney has brought to these conversations. Also, this book is funny. Like, really, really funny. The Med Scout badges was my favorite part, including the the "badges" she earned with her medications, but the porno photo shoot was a close second. I can't say enough good things about this book, so let me leave you with this: read it.
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  • Jennifer W
    May 21, 2013
    This was an easily accessible, fun (given the topic), creative read. I really felt she was able to show a lot of insight and capture her mania and depression. I also liked her more philosophical questions: do meds fundamentally change who I am? how many meds to take? are "crazy" people more creative? who gets to judge that people of the past (van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, etc) were mentally ill? how much of your illness do you share with friends or family, etc?? I also really liked This was an easily accessible, fun (given the topic), creative read. I really felt she was able to show a lot of insight and capture her mania and depression. I also liked her more philosophical questions: do meds fundamentally change who I am? how many meds to take? are "crazy" people more creative? who gets to judge that people of the past (van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, etc) were mentally ill? how much of your illness do you share with friends or family, etc?? I also really liked her concerns with changing her lifestyle. She didn't want to do yoga, read self help books, take meds or give up smoking pot. She ultimately decided that her mental health was worth those changes. Working in the field, I find those are the hardest concepts to encourage in clients. Ultimately, people have to decide what is worth keeping and what is worth giving up, at least temporarily, for the sake of stability. Well done.
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  • Kelly
    February 26, 2013
    Forney's graphic novel is a brave and honest glimpse into the life of someone suffering bipolar disorder. But more than being about the ups and downs, it's about her struggle to control the symptoms while maintaining her creative mindset and passion. In other words, would taking medication to control the disorder impact her creative output? Would it change how she saw the world?I loved the art, and the story was compelling. It wasn't pretty nor easy to read, but Forney offered her story in a way Forney's graphic novel is a brave and honest glimpse into the life of someone suffering bipolar disorder. But more than being about the ups and downs, it's about her struggle to control the symptoms while maintaining her creative mindset and passion. In other words, would taking medication to control the disorder impact her creative output? Would it change how she saw the world?I loved the art, and the story was compelling. It wasn't pretty nor easy to read, but Forney offered her story in a way that wasn't meant to elicit sympathy or pity. Rather, it was there as a means of understanding what the experience is like while also offering hope that even when different medications/therapies don't work, it doesn't mean the individual is a failure.
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  • Gus Sanchez
    October 8, 2012
    Ellen Forney does a masterful job of creating a visual of the manic highs and the depressive lows of bipolar disorder, in this frank, funny, often harrowing, and yet affirming memoir of her struggle with bipolar disorder. She uses her chosen medium to great advantage here, and what comes out of this is a terrific study of an artist struggling to make sense of her mood disorders, while trying to maintain her creative side. It's her fear that should she find "balance," she would lose that creative Ellen Forney does a masterful job of creating a visual of the manic highs and the depressive lows of bipolar disorder, in this frank, funny, often harrowing, and yet affirming memoir of her struggle with bipolar disorder. She uses her chosen medium to great advantage here, and what comes out of this is a terrific study of an artist struggling to make sense of her mood disorders, while trying to maintain her creative side. It's her fear that should she find "balance," she would lose that creative side of her. Thankfully, Ellen Forney doesn't, and we're the better for it.Eloquent and heartfelt. Highly recommended.
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  • Elizabeth A
    September 25, 2013
    If you are creative person, does it follow that you are also crazy? I mean look at the company you keep - Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh, Leo Tolstoy, Emily Dickinson, and my fave boy crush, Michelangelo, among others. Who would not want to be in that company? This graphic memoir is a fascinating look inside the author's head after she is newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the episodes of mania and depression that follow. Insightful, informative, and disarmingly honest. The author expe If you are creative person, does it follow that you are also crazy? I mean look at the company you keep - Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh, Leo Tolstoy, Emily Dickinson, and my fave boy crush, Michelangelo, among others. Who would not want to be in that company? This graphic memoir is a fascinating look inside the author's head after she is newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the episodes of mania and depression that follow. Insightful, informative, and disarmingly honest. The author experiments with a cocktail of meds and behavioral changes in the search of balance, and struggles with the romanticization of the crazy artist. Considering the topic, this is a really fun read.
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  • Karen
    November 29, 2016
    I'm so grateful that a friend recommended this (and lent it to me) after I mentioned that a family member had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I know that everybody's experiences with the illness differ, but I found it incredibly helpful to read about Forney's struggle to find the right combination of medications (I had no idea it could take so long) and her fears about losing her creativity and identity to medication.--------------------------------------------Counting as my book I'm so grateful that a friend recommended this (and lent it to me) after I mentioned that a family member had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I know that everybody's experiences with the illness differ, but I found it incredibly helpful to read about Forney's struggle to find the right combination of medications (I had no idea it could take so long) and her fears about losing her creativity and identity to medication.--------------------------------------------Counting as my book with a main character that has a mental illness for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
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  • Tamsinwilloughby
    May 9, 2015
    Wow, this was really good.A brave and honest portrait of living with a mental illness and how that intersects with being an artist and being creative.Great art that can really capture a mood and gives you lots of stuff to think about. And despite the subject matter this is very readable and even funny.Highly recommended.
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