By Melissa Maerz
November 02, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Marbles

A

What’s the difference between crazy-brilliant and crazy-crazy? Eisner-nominated cartoonist Ellen Forney considers the answer in this bracingly honest memoir, which explores the links between creativity and mental instability. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder before her 30th birthday, Forney chronicles her experiments with therapy, pills, and mood monitoring (”How could I keep track of my mind, with my own mind?” she sighs) while researching other so-called ”crazy artists.” (Vincent van Gogh and Michelangelo were bipolar too.) All of that might sound bleak, but the book is surprisingly fun to read, bursting with manic adventures (illicit hookups! costume parties! spontaneous tattoos!), cautionary tales (one emotional crash leaves her in a forest, hugging a tree), and wild drawings that perfectly illustrate her mood swings. By the time she finds the right treatment, Marbles isn’t just a great story; it’s proof that artists don’t have to be tortured to be brilliant. A

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