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 struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passions and creativity.
Searching to make sense of the popular concept of the crazy artist, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. She also researches the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, including the strengths and limitations of various treatments and medications, and what studies tell us about the conundrum of attempting to “cure” an otherwise brilliant mind.
Darkly funny and intensely personal, Forney’s memoir provides a visceral glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist’s work, as she shares her own story through bold black-and-white images and evocative prose.
Eisner nominee Forney confesses her struggles with being diagnosed as bipolar in this witty and insightful memoir. Beginning with the manic episode that led to her diagnosis, Forney chronicles her journey toward reconciling the dual natures of bipolar disorder: a dangerous disease, but also a source of inspiration for many artists. The long journey of medication and therapy is kept from gloom by Forney's lively, likable cartooning. Alternating among her cartoonish panels, realistic illustrations, and photographs of the sketch pad she kept as part of her therapy, Forney allows her art to chronicle her outer life while revealing her inner state of mind. Her personal journey provides a core story that examines her mood disorders and their connection to creativity for the many "crazy artists" she imagines as part of "Club van Gogh." Readers struggling with their own mania or depression will find Forney good company, and others searching for insight into the minds of troubled artists will find Forney an engaging storyteller.
Smart, fun, informational, graphic
Forney's memoir lets us in on what it is to be a crazy artist, and understand the fears for many creatives—what will happen to my art if I take medication? She manages to make a work that makes you understand the depths of depression without being depressing, and makes you cringe a little through her manic episodes. Through the entire swing of the book she maintains a sparkling sense of humor.
This graphic novel views quite well on my retina display iPad. If I were using a lower resolution or smaller device, I would want to get a physical book instead. The pages are only viewable in full spreads format. It would be nice if the publisher allowed portrait mode viewing of single pages, as well.
As a human touched in this lifetime by a bipolar relative…this was so gorgeous, kind, and relieving. I love you Ellen Forney!
Fun and helpful.