Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me
Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney

Alice: But I don’t want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
Alice: How do you know I’m mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn’t have come here.

—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

With Thanksgiving season upon us, we’re encouraged to take stock of our lives, offering appreciation for the wonderful people and things. In Ellen Forney’s case, she has so much for which to give thanks. She was a regular cartoonist for an alternative weekly and co-authored the National Award-winning The Diary of a Part-Time Indian and was nominated for the Eisner Award. But most of all, she should give thanks to finally coming to terms with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the work, Marbles, her graphic memoir, that resulted from the journey toward a new normal.

To call her memoir “confessional” and “brave,” which it is for certain, loses meaning in a culture that celebrates shallow reality television drama. This is something much different. On one level, Forney’s battle to find the right way to treat her bipolar disorder—drugs? Yoga? Self-control?—is a fight for her soul as an artist, which she fears could be destroyed in the process. The other, her life, as she notes how many artists with bipolar disorder have been institutionalized and/or committed suicide. All of the while she ponders the very nature of insanity and its role in creating art.

Marbles is, at turns, funny, quirky, uplifting, and desperate, a tale which captures her best and worst moments as she saw them. For example, at San Diego Comic-Con in 2000, she had the highs of being nominated for an Eisner and the over-stimulation of the crowds come crashing down when her publicist ran out of copies of her book and Forney flew into a rage, possibly due to her bipolar disorder. In the weeks that followed she had to discover what had caused her implosion in order to keep it from happening again.

I highly recommend this book, even if you are unfamiliar with Ellen Forney, as I was. Her art is gallery-rich—cartoons, sketches, realistic, or portraits—that you’ll go back just to stare at the individual works. Ultimately, it’s a book that peers deep inside for answers…and challenges other artists to do the same.

Come see Ellen Fornay in person:

Tuesday, Nov. 20, Philadelphia
Barnes & Noble, 6:30pm
1805 Walnut Street

Order a copy of Marbles:

Culture A Review of Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me