Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book #1: Marbles by Ellen Forney

As I said in yesterday's post, I'm going to keep track here of the books that I read in 2013, and see if I can make it to 25. (For all I know, I've already been making it to that number, but I just don't keep track!)

I said in that post that I would count graphic novels as proper books, and lo and behold, I'm starting the year with one. Marbles by Ellen Forney is an extraordinary look at bipolar disorder (also called manic depression), told by someone who has it. This is a memoir that moves from Forney's diagnosis in the mid-90s, and takes you through the following 15 years of her life, the ups and downs, the confusion and regret, and the constant battle with medications.

At first she delights in her manic episodes, thinking it helps her reach new creative peaks. Like a constant bolt of adrenalin, her manic behaviour pushes her to do more and more, and be wilder and wilder with her goals. Throughout it all she has a wonderful psychiatrist working with her, urging her to take medication. But she has one deep fear: as an artist, wouldn't taking medication stifle her creativity? I mean, if Michelangelo and Van Gogh and hundreds of artists throughout history are now widely assumed to have been bipolar — and were unmedicated — shouldn't she join their ranks? Shouldn't she embrace the manic side of her life and learn to live with it, unmedicated?

Her psychiatrist gently explains to her that yes, those people were unmedicated, and most of them committed suicide, too.

Unfortunately, when you're up, there's only one direction to go next, and when she hits bottom, she hits rock bottom. Over several pages you can feel the darkness descend over her life. Frame after frame of the book shows her as nothing but a ball, curled up under a blanket on the couch, unable to move or do anything. Her paranoia begins building, and eventually she gives in and tries the meds. We watch her swing from one extreme to the other as her body adjusts, rejects, adjusts, and rejects one med after another, until finally, after a decade, she finds the perfect combo. AND finds a place where she can be as creative as she wants to be, and doesn't feel like her mind is a fog.

This book is amazing. If you are lucky enough not to suffer from bipolar disorder, you probably know someone who does, and this is an excellent book not just for readers in general, who will delight in her story and gorgeous illustrations, but for anyone who is worried about a loved one, or, most importantly, those suffering from the disease. There is hope, and Forney's is the only book I've ever read on bipolar disorder that unequivocally lays that out for readers. Highly recommended.

OK, your turn. In the comments below, tell me about the first book you read this year!


Amanda said...

I said this on Facebook, Nikki, but my first is "The Hangman's Daughter," a Polish book about a hangman in the 1600s. It's part of a series, and I've already ordered the second. Not great stuff but dark and weird and absorbing. Plus, it has characters with names like Magdalena Kuisl and Bonifaz Fronweiser.

Dusk said...

*Sigh of relief this post did not start with the words Fifty Shades of...* :)

I recently burned through the Eragon books out of finally caving into a years long debate. Not perfect, but not as horrible as some haters say.

On the graphic novel front Angel & Faith Vol. 1 Live Through This. If anyone from the Great Buffy Rewatch is lurking and if you were turned off by the S8 mess, or have never read any of the Buffy or Angel comics I strongly reccomend the A & F titles. Christos Gage really get this universe and the characters and it feels new, but still familar to the characters of the show, and it feels completly like this could have been a TV show. And Rebbekah Issacs's art is just amazing. It also does a decent job of repairing the BS the writers put Angel through in S8, something I hardly thought possible after that story pissed off both Angel fans and Angel haters at the same time.

Vol 2 Daddy Issues was even better.

Also read the first two volumes of S9, better then S8 but still missing a cetain spark.

Nikki Stafford said...

Dusk: I would swear to God that there will never be one beginning with the words "Fifty Shades of..." but I never say never. Mostly because if enough people dared me, I'd probably read the series just so I could properly review it. But I wouldn't do it on my own. Life is too short to waste it reading that... whatever it is.

I have Angel & Faith volumes 1&2, based on the recommendation of my friend Ensley, and haven't gotten to them yet. I'll post on them when I read them. :)

Dusk said...

Well, since it began as Twilight fanfiction and there is movie rumours, maybe somebody wilmake a Buffy vs Christian video in a few years.

On the Buffyverse front I would also advise "Angel: The John Bryne Collection" it's from IDW and one of the stories in it is how they wrote out Lorne after Andy passed, it is also good and I don't think Lorne is in any of the Dark Horse books, so for proper closure I would read it, it is a fitting send-off.

Shimon said...

I'm totally in on this and your pace sounds like it will match my own (even though I am a Dad and "can" disappear ;)
My first book this year was "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo. In short it reminded me of a real life version of the Hunger Games. The scariest part being that it is FOR REAL.
highly recommended.

Chris in NF said...

The first book of the new year was a Christmas present, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon ... I really cannot say enough about it. It is set in postwar Barcelona, and is a mystery involving a dead novelist whose books are being tracked down and burned by a dark, demon-like figure. Beautifully evocative, and makes me want to go to Spain.

More recently, I read Elmore Leonard's Raylan, a novel he wrote on the heels of the success of Justified. I only started reading Leonard early last year, and am making up for lost time. The man's writing is astounding.

yourblindspot said...

My brother and his girlfriend gave me Chris Ware's 'Building Stories' this year for Christmas. I suppose it's ostensibly a graphic novel, but it comes in a thick, heavy box that contains ten separate pieces of the work, all printed in different formats on varying materials. There are long, narrow panels that resemble comic strips cut from newspapers, smaller staple-stitched digests, large fold-outs on newsprint. One piece consists of several oversized comic panels printed on what resembles a folding game board, and another that mimics the format of a Little Golden Book, right down to the characteristic two-tone end papers. The fractured narrative follows the occupants of a brownstone apartment building in Chicago, primarily a woman who lives there, both alone and with family, through most of her adult life. However, the narrative mode changes constantly, with interludes in voices as varied as omniscient beings from the future, an anthropomorphic bumblebee, and the thoughts of the building itself.

Needless to say, it's been hard to follow up that experience. Right now, I'm working on Robert Olmstead's 'Far Bright Star,' which is presumably about Pancho Villa but so far is more like an experiential postcard regarding how much fun it was to be in the U. S. Army as part of the Punitive Expedition in 1916 (spoiler alert: it was not much fun).

Nikki Stafford said...

yourblindspot: I've read about "Building Stories" in EW, and it looks fascinating. I'll have to read that one.

Chris in NF: I haven't read anything by Zafon; sounds like I should. ;)

Marebabe said...

Sometime in November or December, I started reading "A Clash of Kings", and I finished it a couple weeks ago, in mid-January. I'm currently reading "A Storm of Swords", and my bookmark is about one-third of the way through it. I normally take a long time getting through big, epic novels. I'm no speed-reader!

Amanda said...

I actually read the first "50 Shades" because a couple people in my book club wanted to. I HATED it to the point where I wouldn't read the others.
However, I have the same view of this book that Alan Sepinwall has of the second season of "Friday Night Lights" -- if you don't read it, then you don't get to make fun of it. And I do feel that the ability to mock "50 Shades" has enhanced my life to the point where reading it was worthwhile.
So make of that what you will.

The Original Scroll said...

As my last book of 2012 was "The Golden Fool" by Robin Hobb, it follows logically that my first book of 2013 was "Fool's fate", great book and great series, even if it left me with serious emotional trauma - my first reaction after finishing it was: "I'll never read another book again!!" Then, of course, the next day I began re-reading "Assassin's apprentice" and then "Royal assassin" (I believe it's ok, if I count them all as Book 1, it's the same story anyway). As my sister got to "Assassin's quest" first in her own re-read, I've had to read other things inbetween.
Hobb must be my very most favouritest fantasy writer ever, even if there's a certain mr. Martin who isn't bad either, but his story isn't finished yet and I'm still waiting to be thouroughly traumatized by him.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I've read some books. Buffy:Unseen pt 1 is a typical less-good-than-fanfic Buffy official novel, but at least I can pretend that Buffy's still around while I read it. I read Care Packages by Dana Reeves, about letters that were sent to her husband Christopher after his accident. It should come with a package of tissues. Chiaroscuro is a very interesting graphic novel telling a fictionalized biography of Leonardo DaVinci. I finished re-reading a Wild Cards novel (but that I started last year) and a re-read Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs. I read a trade paperback of Star Trek stories called Captain's Log. I'm almost finished Giant Thief by David Tallerman, a British author who's a friend of a friend. I'm going to count it because it should be done tomorrow.

Batcabbage said...

The first book I read this year was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, but I'm not gonna count that, because it's the fifth or sixth time I've read it (if anyone out there hasn't read it, drop everything and go do it now - it's pure genius). So my first book is Dune by Frank Herbert. I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and my uncle at Christmas was amazed as a sci-fi fan that I'd never read any of the Dune books. So I read Dune in two days. Then Dune Messiah in one and a half days (it was significantly shorter). I'm now about halfway through Children of Dune, and I'm completely addicted. They are fantastic books, and I'd recommend them to anyone, except that I'm probably the last person on the planet who hadn't read them. :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Batty: American Gods is on my list for the year. There, I've said it, and now I can stick to it. I've read pretty much everything Neil Gaiman has written EXCEPT that. It's like saying I've read everything by Lewis Carroll except for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. ;) So I must rectify that. Immediately.

Marebabe said...

Mr. Cabbage: I’m reminded of a quote by Woody Allen: “I took a speed-reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.”

Since you are enjoying the “Dune” books so much, I’m here to recommend most heartily the prequels written by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson: “House Atreides”, “House Harkonnen”, and “House Corrino”. They go back a couple generations before Paul and Jessica and Duncan and everyone you know from “Dune”. And then there are the prequels that go back a few millennia, to the days of the Butlerian Jihad, when the Atreides and Harkonnens were great friends. To the origins of the Bene Gesserit school, the Guild Navigators, the mentats, the Swordmasters of Ginaz, and the Suk doctors. I enjoyed all of the prequels even more than Frank’s original series. I just love the narrative style of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson. And as you already know, it’s a rich world, full of rich characters and stories.

Marebabe said...

Dear Batcabbage: I was driving home and thinking more about the world of Dune, and I could not BELIEVE that I forgot to mention the Fremen! If you read “The Butlerian Jihad”, “The Machine Crusade”, and “The Battle of Corrin”, you will learn how the Fremen culture began. It’s awesome!

Batcabbage said...

@Nik: I had to read your comment twice to be sure that it said you hadn't read American Gods. I envy you now in the way I did before you read Y: The Last Man. You have a hell of a ride in front of you. You will absolutely fall in love with that book.

@Ms.... Babe: Thanks for the advice! I will definitely check out those Dune volumes (although I'm a little miffed at Brian Herbert at the moment - his introductions to his dad's books contain FAR too many spoilers for my liking. I found myself half-reading sentences and then shouting 'No, no, NO! PUT IT IN THE AFTERWARD, YOU BASTARD! I DIDN'T WANT TO KNOW THAT!'). Nearly finished Children now (I reckon I have about 3 hours left). Amazing, amazing book. Better even than the first two. YAY READING! :)/i

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Oops. Thought you said 'books'.

erin said...

The first book that I read in 2013 -- well, finished, since I actually started it in 2012 but the way that I track is by date FINISHED - was "Big Machine" by Victor LaValle. It was peculiar, but fascinating. I am a much better reader than writer, so that is about all that i can say.

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