by David B.

Paperback, 2005




New York : Pantheon Books, c2005


David B. spent an idyllic early childhood in a small town near Orléans, France, but the family's life changed abruptly when his big brother Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age eleven. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes, but every new cure ended in disappointment. Angry at his brother for "abandoning" him and at all the quacks who offered them false hope, the author learned to cope by drawing fantastically elaborate battle scenes, creating images that provide a window into his interior life, as well as reliving his grandfathers' experiences in both World Wars through flashbacks. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family, this graphic autobiography is also a moving depiction of one family's intricate history.--From publisher description.… (more)

Media reviews

Illness may be of dubious use as metaphor, as Susan Sontag famously argued, but it's an even unlikelier theme for a comic book. By both origin and reputation, comics (or graphic novels, as one is now more or less obliged to call them) are the ultimate vessel of nerdy wish-fulfillment: blocky,
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oversaturated fantasy pieces in which everyday schmoes acquire superhuman powers and wreak righteous vengeance on their villainous tormentors.
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8 more
David B's autobiographical Epileptic [368pp, Jonathan Cape, £16.99], on the other hand, is a staggeringly original work of real power. Its creator developed his cartooning style as a way to cope with his brother's debilitating illness. In his childhood bedroom, with Bach on the stereo, he would
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pour all his fear, aggression, sympathy and detachment into intricate comic strips.
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A book with a title like Epileptic does not raise high expectations: will it be an account of suffering nobly borne, or a worthy medical treatise perhaps? Not a bit of it, this memoir is a graphics extravaganza spread over 361 pages, bursting with energy and wild imaginings, a comic tour de force
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that is as emotionally gut-wrenching as it is visually stunning.
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To eviscerate, according to the OED , is "To take out the entrails of; to disembowel; to gut"; fishermen do it. Evisceration is also, of course, a familiar and often pretty fishy form of literary self-display, all the way from the Psalmist to Dave Pelzer - writing conceived of, produced and
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presented as a form of self-dismemberment or mutilation through which the writer saves him or herself from some real or imagined pain.
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From childhood, French artist Pierre-François Beauchard had a firm hand on his demons, and was capable of channeling them into supportive and constructive channels. His hefty graphic-novel memoir Epileptic (initially released as the multi-volume French series L'Ascension Du Haut Mal, and published
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under his nom de plume, David B.) shows him as a child obsessed with war and death, and prone to seeing the world in terms of monsters and metaphors.
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These days, it's easy to see the enormous influence that cartooning and comics have had on popular cinema. It's as if Hollywood has no other source and no other style for its family-friendly entertainments. Less well observed is the relationship between literature and comics. While there are worthy
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precursors, to be sure, the ascent of comics into the realm of the literary began in earnest in 1986 with the publication of Art Spiegelman's ''Maus.'' And with Chris Ware's ''Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth'' (2000), comics and comic artists became unavoidable in literary circles.
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The lifeblood of any successful memoir is detail. Cartoonist David B. (born Pierre-François Beauchard) remembers it all: the sudden shock of watching his brother, Jean-Christophe, fall to his first epileptic seizure; the aggressiveness of his parents, who exhausted themselves seeking a cure; and
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the frustration of a would-be artist, who sought refuge in tales of horrific war and in drawing scenes of bloodletting.
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The standard line on first-rate graphic novels is that they’re “cinematic,” or sometimes “literary.” That’s why a lot of third-rate graphic novels give the sense that they’re essentially storyboards for a movie pitch, or a prose story with pictures tacked on.
In this unsettling visual memoir, the award-winning comic artist David B. (the nom de plume of Pierre-François Beauchard) presents a portrait of the artist as a disturbed young man.

User reviews

LibraryThing member stephmo
This is David B's open and raw account of his family's life as they search for a cure for his brother's severe epilepsy. David B leaves in all up for examination - his family's ancestry, the various cures the family seeks out, obsessions each family member develops, the frustrations all of them
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have and the toll that all of this takes on everyone.

There are times where David B's level of disclosure can seem uncomfortable. Worse yet, much of the alternative medication in our pill-driven society can seem downright cruel until you realize nearly every pharmacological treatment for his brother ends up in complete failure. Then it becomes a story about a family willing to take any weapon up against a cruel tormentor, no matter how slim the chances of success. Even so, he presents this story honestly, showing the toll that a fight with no real end will take on all participants involved.

As an illustrator, David B's work is reminiscent of intricate wood-cuttings where one can get lost in the details for hours. The depictions of the seizures and the onset of depression are an accomplishment unto themselves, and well worth a look through the book. Each of the backgrounds contains characters and spirit guides that serve he and his siblings well in their active fantasy life.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member dr_zirk
A truly wonderful book, both because of David B's beautifully executed drawings and the fabulously compelling narrative that he constructs from his family history. One of the best books that I have ever read about family life and the relationships between siblings, and truly one of the high points
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of the world of "graphic novels" over the last few years. David B is a world-class talent and Epileptic is a masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member Coobeastie
A fantastic book; the insights into the emotional world of being a sibling of a person with a disability, and the effects it has on their lives. The desperate search for a cure is at times heart wrenching.
LibraryThing member belleyang
This is a must read for comics lovers. Life-altering for anyone aspiring graphic novelists. The story is fascinating and the art worth enjoying over the course of a life time.
LibraryThing member Girl_Detective
Masterful storytelling until the end, when it degenerates into a dream journal. Might have been better set entirely in the past, with a set stopping point.
LibraryThing member ShaneCasebeer
Q: 5
P: 3
Annotation: With surgical precision, David Small portrays his childhood and teen years that are marked by troubled and distant parents who hide the truth from him about the two operations that have left him almost speechless, and with an enormous scar on his neck.
LibraryThing member kivarson
While exploring his family's quest to cure his brother of epilepsy, David B. brings us into the world of alternative health and macrobiotics as practiced in French communes in the 1970s.
LibraryThing member kirstiecat
People who think graphic novels aren't serious novels are probably also in the same category as those who haven't read novels like Epileptic by David B. (birthname: Pierre-François Bouchard) Though it is very different in context than Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, it is no less vivid and
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piercingly autobiographical. This novel focuses on the author's own story of himself as a little boy growing up in France in the 1960s with a brother who is an epileptic and all the various alternative medicines and struggles the family is put through...it's mixed with any typical coming of age fascinations but overlying it is the themes of wonder and despair. There's an incredible insight into the way they are treated and a sense of deep questioning...where does the seizure take his older brother..does he do it on purpose? The guilt, the anger, the sadness all combine in alarming honesty that makes this book a must read for anyone trying to come to terms with disability and its pervasive impact.

The writing is fantastic but the story is truly enriched by the author's own drawings of his family, the legions of historical battle scenes boys typically get caught up in, and all of those who wish to in some way heal his brother. Best of all are the author's darkside imaginary confidants who he relies on in his loneliness while searching for answers as well as his very imaginative dreams that seem to often plague him and bring up more questions.

In any case, if you've always been a little curious about the graphic novel but don't like all of the stuff about superheros (I'll take those too personally depending on my mood) then I'd highly recommend this one. Very challenging with so much emotional depth you'll likely only be able to read a bit at a time..though, I suppose the better to savor it.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
This is a dark slog of a memoir as the author describes the huge impact his older brother's epilepsy had on the family. As their parents pursue all manner of esoteric philosophies, treatments and diets to find relief for Jean-Christophe, Pierre-Francois (David B.) draws and writes stories to find
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escape, if not understanding, from his brother's condition. I found it slow going after awhile, and quite weighty, but also gained a sense of the lifelong frustration and emotional challenge this family faced. Rant: Readers of a certain age and older will be pained by David B.'s small, tight lettering.
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LibraryThing member lissabeth21
What a unique experience and intensely intimate insight to the life of a young boy whose brother is stricken with Epilepsy. The disease alters the life of the whole family aa well as each individual member irrevocably.
LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
David B.'s artwork is stunning, it sort of reminded me of Cubism. He's truly forged a unique style however I found his narrative work a bit circular and at times i was lost in the story when I didn't want to be. I think it took something away from the emotional center of the work, which was overall
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LibraryThing member Jeffrey_Hatcher
REVIEW OF EPILEPTIC DAVID B for librarything.com

David B.'s exploration of how a family member copes with epilepsy dives deep into the world of having an older sibling with the illness. Epileptic is a profound graphic novel in which the younger of two brothers narrates his life experience with
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unremitting candor. In this sense, 'graphic' refers both to the book's content as well as to its illustrated format. Before I present my review, I ask the reader to be very sensitive to the fact that Epileptic was copyrighted almost two decades ago (2005) when many victims and loved ones had starkly different life experiences than many, if not most, of their contemporary counterparts. The subject character suffers daily seizures during broad parts of his life which will naturally affect his cognitive life experience to a much greater degree than that of very many modern victims, the beneficiaries of far more effective second- and third-generation anticonvulsant medications. The likely difference in medical experiences is particularly assured if we assume that the author's outlook will have arisen deep in the 1990's. Cautious sensitivity becomes increasingly required as the illustrations of the sick brother distort him in a negative way as the book progresses. Some of the distortion has realism to it, however uncomfortable such realism might be.

The book is extraordinary in how many issues it brings up. The author tackles prejudice of violence; fear of surgery; non-medicinal seizure control; psychosomatic pitfalls in behavior; and many others. The author quickly calls attention to how readily people might stigmatize victims. Even as a graphic novel it wields more intellectual impact than ordinary texts might do.

The 2nd half of the book requires the most sensitivity to the time of publication as I've mentioned above. More and more, Jean-Christophe behaves in an agitated, antisocial manner. At the same time, his artistic portrayal becomes darker and larger than life. In illustrating his brother's resentful image of him, the author visually portrays him as a veritable monster in his brother's mind. The imagery discomforts a reader for its stigmatizing visuals, and for this reason the fact that it reveals the brother's psychological state is critical to bear in mind. The book, in fact, is more of a treatise on the healthy sibling than on the ill one.

So as not to be a spoiler, I will not detail the end of the book other than to say it is one of the most creative endings that I have seen in literature. It's not at all majestic, heroic, damning, or name your extreme. Rather it is creative and as profound as a miserable, humiliating disease permits. Epileptic is essential to a complete library of anyone with interests in the topic.
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