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Review: Marbles

March 24, 2013


Artist Ellen Forney started seeing a therapist because she was feeling blue but when she became “jazzed,” her therapist referred her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar disorder.  Ellen resisted medication at first because,

Along with my romantic preconceptions about what being a crazy artist meant . . . were my terrified preconception about what being a medicated artist meant.

In other words, she was afraid she would lose her creativity if she tamed her disorder.  She consoled herself by reading about other authors and artists who probably suffered from bipolar disorder or major depression and considered herself in good company.  Once her therapist educated her of the risks of the disorder, such as possible suicide, Ellen decided to try medication.  Treating bipolar disorder is not that easy, though – it took a while to find the correct balance of medications and treatments to successfully treat Ellen.

I love memoirs and enjoy graphic memoirs as a change of pace, so when I saw Vasilly’s review of Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, by Ellen Forney, I knew I wanted to read it, and I’m so glad I did.  Treatment certainly hasn’t quashed Forney’s creativity because this book is well written and beautifully illustrated.

Marbles interior

Finding the right balance of treatments wasn’t easy for Forney and it’s something she’ll have to work on the rest of her life.  I admire her openness and honesty in this book – she bares all, literally and figuratively, and it’s not always pretty.  Because of her disorder, she participated in some risky behavior and she shares it all with her readers.  (If things like that offend you, this may not be the book for you.)  I learned so much about bipolar disorder and how it affects those who suffer from it and think I understand it better after reading her account.  The saddest part is that being properly treated can costs thousands of dollars a month, and I’m sure there are many people who go untreated because they can’t afford it.  Forney said her insurance doesn’t cover mental health care but she was lucky to have her mother’s support.

If you or someone you know suffers from bipolar disorder, Marbles is a must read.  I’m sure it will bring comfort and encouragement to many people.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth F permalink
    March 24, 2013 7:09 am

    I know someone with bipolar disease and this sounds like a book that would give her family some insight.

  2. March 24, 2013 8:46 am

    I want to read this also because of Vasily’s post, which also reminded me that Forney is the one who did the great illustrations for the Sherman Alexie book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

  3. therelentlessreader permalink
    March 24, 2013 9:16 am

    I was inspired to read this because of Vasilly’s post as well. I agree with you, it’s a must read. I was entertained and I learned a LOT!

  4. March 24, 2013 10:15 am

    Oh, I must get my hands on this one!!! Sounds like an informative read, but fun at the same time. 🙂

  5. March 24, 2013 11:36 am

    Mental health disorders are certainly something many of us do not understand, and it’s interesting to learn more. Thanks so much for your excellent review.

  6. sandynawrot permalink
    March 24, 2013 12:33 pm

    I’m all over this one. I love GNs, especially memoirs in that format, plus I totally understand the whole mental diagnosis and medication thing here lately. I’m off to see if my library has it.

  7. lab1990 permalink
    March 24, 2013 1:16 pm

    It is crazy how people can’t get treatment due to costs. I wish mental illnesses had more awareness…it’s changing, but still a bit slowly. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, though, as it’s one that I have on my wish list. Must get to it soon!

    Lauren from

  8. March 24, 2013 2:57 pm

    This sounds interesting – I missed Vasillys post so glad that you posted about it too 🙂

  9. March 24, 2013 4:01 pm

    Okay, first V, and now you – I have to add this to my to-read list!

  10. March 24, 2013 4:46 pm

    Sounds very different. I too like memoirs very much.

  11. Patty permalink
    March 24, 2013 5:49 pm

    This book looks different and really interesting!

  12. March 24, 2013 7:00 pm

    I actually know of a gifted teen artist who is struggling with depression and meds. I might have to buy this one for her.

  13. bookingmama permalink
    March 24, 2013 7:17 pm

    I need to read this one. Sounds entertaining and enlightening at the same time.

  14. March 24, 2013 8:04 pm

    I’ve been looking for this book for a while. Can’t find it in any of my libraries, but it’s on my radar. Glad that you thought this book was great.

  15. March 24, 2013 8:11 pm

    Excellent review, Kathy! This sounds like a terrific book!

  16. March 24, 2013 9:18 pm

    I’ve wanted to read this one since Vasilly’s post too. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it too!

  17. March 24, 2013 10:24 pm

    i have a few friends who suffer from bipolar and their experience is that once they find the right meds, life is much easier.

  18. March 25, 2013 1:00 pm

    Still working my way up the hold list at my library for this one. I can’t wait to read it!

  19. March 25, 2013 3:17 pm

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this!

  20. March 26, 2013 3:04 pm

    Just talked to a dad whose daughter was diagnosed at 24 and it’s been an year and a half and they just got the meds right. As for the money, we’re spending way more than that out of pocket on a 2 year old! It should be criminal what insurance companies do to people who pay their premiums!

  21. March 26, 2013 8:49 pm

    I know a couple of people that I need to get this book for, and one is an artist as well! Thank you for sharing about this book!

  22. March 27, 2013 9:06 pm

    I’m curious about this one and want to check it out.

  23. April 7, 2013 7:03 am

    I haven’t read a graphic novel is a while – it’s time! I already put this on hold at the library. Looks interesting. Thanks.

  24. boardinginmyforties permalink
    April 22, 2013 8:44 pm

    Sounds like a powerful read. I have heard that those with mental illness oftentimes resist the medication because it makes them feel numb. I guess it is better to feel crazy or out of control than to not feel anything at all. Sounds like the author has found a way to keep her creativity intact but it can’t be easy.

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