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Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me
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Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  9,649 Ratings  ·  934 Reviews
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
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Avery (first published 2012)
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Melki
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel, memoir
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
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jo
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Paul Bryant
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 week

SHRINK : 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 week

SHRINK : I’m concerned about h
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Book Riot Community
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 ...more
☆☽Erica☾☆
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
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.
Vitor Martins
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
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Jennifer
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ariel
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Julie Ehlers
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 ...more
Carol
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carol by: MIchael Kindness
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
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Lily
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 stars

Marbles 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
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Marc
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 ...more
Cheryl
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jenna
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 ...more
Eve
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-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
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Jake
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Raina
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
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Robert
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 ...more
Amanda L
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
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Sam Quixote
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Nicola Mansfield
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Bekah Porter-Sandy
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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jess
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jennifer W
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Kelly
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
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Gus Sanchez
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 ...more
Elizabeth A
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphix, 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
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Karen
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
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Counting as my book
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Tamsinwilloughby
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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Underrated 1 4 Jan 05, 2017 10:39AM  
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Ellen Forney grew up in Philadelphia and has lived in Seattle since 1989. She has been a professional cartoonist/ illustrator since 1992, and also sometimes paints, and dabbles in other artsy pursuits. She teaches Comics at Seattles Cornish College of the Arts. She drives a silver 1968 Mercury Cougar.
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