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The Incantations of Daniel Johnston

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  380 ratings  ·  73 reviews
"[The Incantations of Daniel Johnston] captures Johnston's visions—both artistic and hallucinatory—in an intensely colorful cartoonish style and vivid recurring images: frogs, cascades of pills, volcanoes, eyeballs of many varieties."

—John Williams, New York Times Book Review

"Cavolo’s art is lush, cartoonish, and red, red, red—the better to illustrate Johnston’s giant hear
Paperback, 136 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Two Dollar Radio (first published July 5th 2016)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  380 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Dave Schaafsma
RIP Daniel Johnston, 1961-2019:

"Carpenters are bipolar too, but it doesn't help them build better houses."

The Incantations of Daniel Johnston is one of my favorite books so far this year. It is one wild and crazy illustrated biography of bipolar musician and comics artist Johnston, who once was an improbable MTV favorite in the eighties. It’s not a happy story, and it’s not a straightforward biography, thank god, because to make it that way would not be co
Kevin Maloney
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It’s hard to write a review of this book because my reaction to it is so personal. It’s like someone broke into my brain and made the book I always wanted to see in the world. Ricardo Cavolo is the artist of my dreams and Scott McClanahan is the writer of my dreams and Daniel Johnston is the eye floating above a pyramid on the back of a dollar bill. I can only say that as I read this book I felt queasy and like I was floating. It reminded me of being a kid in Beaverton, Oregon, drawing a thousan ...more
An engaging journey into the dark mind/illuminated heart that is Daniel Johnston. But watch out for the part when you become Daniel!
Bud Smith
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A steam roller, visually and spiritually. I was reading this really shitty Beatles biography in the lobby of this motel and I was having such a crappy time with The Beatles biography but then I realized that in the bottom of my suitcase, I had this killer art mashup about Daniel and about his music and illness and his family and his troubles. I put the Beatles biography back on the table and switched books. I was waiting for the rain to stop and for the taxi cab to come. And just when the rain s ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you were going to tell the story of outsider artist and musician Daniel Johnston, a story that includes madness, mental hospitals and MTV, a story of psychotic breakdowns, demonic obsessions and an improbable rise to fame, you'd probably take a conservative, clear-eyed approach.
That's the path that Jeff Feuerzeig followed in his award-winning documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston . In The Incantation of Daniel Johnston, the graphic novel by Ricardo Cavolo and Scott McClanahan, they take
Hatchet Mouth
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Scott and Ricardo took a depressing story, infused it with hope and then took that hope away again in an endearing way. Just like Daniel's story is supposed to be. ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A no frills bio of a fascinating individual. Nice illustrations as well.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What can anyone ever say about The Incantations of Daniel Johnston?!

The Incantations of Daniel Johnston isn't about Daniel Johnston. It isn't really about mental illness, or cult-celebrity, or any of that tomfoolery either. It's sorta about Scott McClanahan -- who isn't even real, really. It's a bit of a love note from Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo to Daniel Johnston, but only a little. Mostly, the book is about you, reading Goodreads right now, and the battle of good versus evil, and being free
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Scott's words sank into my heart and then gripped it and twisted it. The feeling I felt reading this book is a lot like that mysterious feeling from a favorite song that both holds you and hurts you. It accurately describes heartache and pain and love. It made me experience my own pain. Such a personal, truthful, beautiful book. ...more
Kevin Catalano
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Take heed the book's warnings: this book is cursed.

"We can only save one another without knowing it. We save one another so we can sing our songs."

A hundred stars.

Big Al
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this so much (until it placed a curse on me...)
Jun 05, 2020 marked it as to-read
sure is hard to find a copy of this book huh

I didn't really like this because it was a biography written still in Daniel Johnston's lifetime, thus making it feel like pieces were missing. I also felt that the author took generous liberties with the biography; it felt like it wasn't "the truth" in its entirety.

I liked the art, though!

RIP Daniel.
Chris  - Quarter Press Editor
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a hard book to process, as it's dealing with quite a bit in such a small space. Even more, it's complicated by it being a "translation" of another text--though, it's really a rewrite based on the artwork and not a direct translation, which is odd in and of itself.

That all being said, it's still an interesting and enjoyable read--though often depressing and heartbreaking.

It may have some odd asides--and some of the images' captions are too-self-referential and trying to lighten things fro
Aug 19, 2016 added it
Because fiction is memoir is fiction is nonfiction. Because Scott McClanahan knows all of this as well as anyone. Because Ricardo Cavalo is love. And because The Incantations of Daniel Johnston is a sad and lovely vision that is sure to change your life.
Dawn Rutherford
Volatile and heartbreaking, a celebration of the works and life of Daniel Johnston that truly captures the highs and lows of his bipolar, delusional, and brilliant world.
Ryan Bradford
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book, through and through.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I wish the writer had spent as much time on this book as the artist! Beautiful illustrations though.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The art is better than the words.
xTx xTx
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
heady, with bursting illustrations. thick.
Carolyn DeCarlo
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
I started reading this book in Australia when Jackson visited in March, but got very distracted by visa issues. So I re-read it today, from the beginning. It is a book for reading all at once, and one that I can imagine becomes richer each time it's read. I went in knowing nothing about the "real" Daniel Johnston, and I'm still not sure I know anything about him. But I do feel like I know more about Scott McClanahan and Ricardo Cavolo. The illustrations and artwork in here are phenomenal. One sp ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
this is a bizarrely gutsy portrait of the life of Daniel Johnston. It doesn't fall into the normal narrative traps of mental illness and art: there's nothing cute or magical about it, Daniel's illness is terrifying. The author and artist here reflect that in the art (which in some ways feels as though it is mimicking Daniel's own) and text, often returning to the idea places where Daniel has been unhinged and violent or dangerous and juxtaposing that with the Daniel that follows his dreams. It d ...more
Liz Yerby
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here's some bias: I hate (most) superhero comics, and I prefer my comics to be more dense with text. This book reads fast and it's hard for me to linger over images! And I appreciate how it breaks the fourth wall, even though my comics heroes (like Theo Ellsworth) do it much more eloquently. I mean I guess just the incantations part makes it modern and spooky at most comic shops. DJ is interesting and I appreciate the books quirky storytelling.

I hate that font I hate that font I hate that font
Meg Tuite
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen and heartbreaking to read! LOVE LOVE IT!

This is a book everyone would love to own! I saw the documentary on Johnston and it was as heartbreaking as this book. And I can relate to the eyes. Everyone out there staring at what they consider weakness, when it is the truth strength! Try to vulnerabilize yourself in public and see how it feels on you. Then soften your gaze!
Chris Lins
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was really wonderful. It was both touching and haunting (literally?) The imagery was rich with symbolism that, to my ignorant wye, seemed to be traditional and full of meaning. I did not know about Daniel Johnston before this, but i looked up his music and was a little unsettled. Overall really great graphic novel. Simultaneously meaningful and beautiful. It is something I strive to create the likes of.
Ryan Chang
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"He made everything he could make because everyone who makes something is only saying: Hi! How are you?"

First of all, the art style absolutely floored me. It's like if Hieronymus Bosch made zines. While it's light on biographical fact, the writing hits on a very personal level and deals with topics like celebrity culture and bipolar disorder and creativity with tight and succinct sentences. Even if you aren't familiar with Daniel Johnston or his music, I'd still recommend this book.
Lee Kimball
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 (pretty good+) I love Daniel and also graphic novels so was super excited when I stumbled upon this book while browsing at the library. The art is beautiful. The prose was fine but felt a like it was trying too hard in some parts. It didn’t really reveal anything new about the man, but it was a fun read. (Also Daniel’s album “Fun” is the best, IMHO, even if it didn’t get great reviews.)
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Art: 5
Words: 2 at best

I couldn’t help but think about how this would have been different had I been lucky enough to get such a project. Great artist, great artwork. So much potential in terms of concept, the writing is just off the mark.
Kate McCarthy
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy crap this book is amazing. The art is incredible, the story is well written and funny. It's a love song for a flawed hero. So good. ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics, biography, ggn17
Brilliant visualization of creativity and mental illness. Very strange and hard to understand but worth the effort.

3 1/2 stars
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Scott McClanahan (born June 24, 1978) is an American writer, filmmaker, and martial artist. He lives in Beckley, West Virginia and is the author of eight books. His most recent book, The Sarah Book, was featured in Rolling Stone, Village Voice, and Playboy. NPR called the book "brave, triumphant and beautiful — it reads like a fever dream, and it feels like a miracle." McClanahan is also a co-foun ...more

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