Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #171: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney

11612-marblesEllen Forney puts her entire self, unfiltered, into Marbles. Please excuse the cliche sentiment, but reading it brings you as close to understanding her hurricane of thoughts as you can get without actually being her. So, graded as insight into the mind of a woman saddled with bipolar disorder,Marbles receives the highest mark I can give.

Yet when graded based upon other factors, namely my personal enjoyment, it rates a bit lower. As I believe I’ve discussed in past reviews, real mental illness is the furthest thing from glamorous. Forney herself tries to hold onto that misconception to sugar coat things, but she quickly realizes that membership card she imagines getting is more a crushing weight on her head and chest than a muse.

The blurbs, which I should know to ignore by now, play up, among other things, Forney’s ability to find humor in her dire situation, but in hindsight they read as an attempt by the writers of said blurbs to trick people into reading a much more raw and serious look into living with bipolar disorder. Forney does try her best to find the silver-lining in certain moments (see the above picture), but you can tell it’s a defense mechanism more than anything. In other words, Marblesisn’t nearly as playful as its blurbs, or its cover (pictured below), would have you believe.

marbles As a result, it can be pretty hard to read at times. At least moreso than I expected. And since I rate books almost entirely based upon personal enjoyment, I have to dock Marbles a couple points for that. It may seem petty, but I need to remain consistent. If you want an honest depiction of what it’s like to be bipolar, you can’t do much better than Marbles; on the other hand, though, if you want an enjoyable read, you probably can do better.

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Shucks Mahoney’s #CBR5 Review #7: Marbles: Mania,Depression, Michelangelo & Me by Ellen Forney

A lively, matter-of-fact memoir about an artist coming to terms with her bipolar disorder, Marbles is a great read. I laughed, I cried, I got the urge to doodle, do yoga, and have a drag queen dress-up party, and wanted to hand it on to everyone I know who has had to struggle with compromising their ideals in search of living a better life (i.e. everyone, ever).

Forney was diagnosed when she was almost thirty, and the word ‘bipolar’ hit her hard. She didn’t see the problem, being in a manic stage, wildly creative and adventurous and sexy, wasn’t that what her life was all about, after all? And at the suggestion of medication – lithium, in particular – she was terrified. But a hideous depressive episode spurred her into more action, and over the years she learns how to manage her illness and her life, and come to terms with what it means for her sense of self.

Weirdly enough, this book came along and I found myself hearing about bipolar disorder everywhere for a few days – it showed up in a story I read in a magazine, then a documentary, then another book. It drove home just how hideous it is to deal with, and what a draining experience it is. Forney doesn’t hide from the ugliness of her condition, but also bravely works with it and demonstrates that for her, it was a long road but she’s admirably coping with it. The best graphic memoir I’ve read since Fun Home or Persepolis, although her storytelling style is very different from Bechdel or Satrapi. Funny and warm and life-affirming, and featuring some very cool outfits and music recommendations as a bonus.