Thursday, October 24, 2013

Moods and Moves


Last night I read the excellent Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me by cartoonist Ellen Forney (illustrator-collaborator of Sherman Alexei's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), a graphic tale of coming to grips with being bi-polar
It was recommended to me by Momo, who has recently been diagnosed with bi-polar II.

Forney's illustration of what she did when she was depressed is just what Alan Garner (who I wrote about yesterday, also bi-polar) described:

 Writing is so much more than the putting-words-down part, so I was interested to read a little about how Forney wrote the book, which includes a lot of useful information alongside her personal story:
"Forney embarked on the four-year journey to create Marbles, which comprised extensive research, interviews and personal journal excerpts. 
She enlisted a research assistant, Jamie Vann, who gathered data on bipolar disorder and case studies. Forney consulted, among other texts, Touched with Fire by psychiatry professor Kay Redfield Jamison on the connection between mood disorders and creativity.  
Forney also interviewed her mother and various friends for their perspectives on her struggle for emotional stability. And the author included her actual drawings from her sketchbook, each one a deftly fragile snapshot of madness."--Grace Bello at PW
Didn't work like that.

Forney interview and more images in the Guardian 

This winter solstice, it'll be 11 years since my mother, Lytton V. Davis, took her own life. She never had a firm diagnosis, but was probably on the spectrum somewhere around cyclothymia. 
Coincidentally, the other day, Lucinda came across a birthday letter my mother had written to her twenty-two years ago. She e-mailed me an excerpt:
Did you know I find you to an inspiration in my life? Yes Ma'am-- I treasure [Lucinda's painting] "The Wand"-- and the precious spirit you have--- and I love your hair too! even!  
Artists are the spokespeople of and for the soul--and are so needed-- you're a valuable person and I'm so very very glad I know you, and that you're my daughter-out-law-- I admire and respect your courage and your faithfulness to your gifts -- Do you know how rare this is?  
It is a treasure in the world and I know how difficult the world (society) is for such a treasure--but it always is, I think-- and those who can somehow keep listening to their soul, with all the pain and obstacles that involves, are of inestimable value-- certainly + directly so, to me---
I hope you don't worry about being 34--- It's a splendid age-- but then, they all are -- sometimes in ways we don't know for a long time--"
Much love and good thoughts to you-- 
from your Aged Ancestress--Lytton

I'd been thinking about my mother recently (I go for long stretches, now, when I don't)--in a happy way, because I'd watched an interview with movie director Brian De Palma in which he said that John Travolta looks so good in Blow Out partly because he's a dancer
––like Jimmy Cagney:

Cagney was better known, of course, for playing gangsters in films like White Heat ("Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"), but I saw him first as a hoofer: one of my mother's favorite movies was Yankee Doodle Dandy, with James Cagney as George M. Cohan. 

And here's John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, the mother in Hairspray (2007) shaking it up to "You Can't Stop the Beat."
Can't get the video to embed. It's on youTube here:

Travolta said
"I wanted [Edna] to look like Sophia Loren if you added 200 lb. I wanted her to be a sexy bombshell who was fun to look at."

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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