August 15, 2008


This is a graphic novel by the French artist David B. It's the story of his childhood and what his family endured because of his older brother's terrifying and incessant epilepsy. He, his brother and his younger sister have a wonderful time for a few years until the seizures hit. It takes place primarily in the 60s and 70s and the medical doctors suggest sketchy and dangerous surgery. David's brother, Jean-Christophe decides he'd rather try macrobiotics because of an article he's read. The family begins a journey down the rabbit hole of woo including acupuncture, massage, even exorcisms. They join colonies and cults. Nothing works and of course much of it even crushes their hopes. Jean-Christophe becomes lazy in David's eyes, but how can he function when a bone-rattling seizure is always just around the corner? He becomes violent, full of rage.

This is the perfect medium. If you enjoyed MAUS or Persepolis you'll love this. David B. was actually a mentor to Marjane Satrapi, creator of Persepolis. If it had been another Dave Eggers/Augustin Bourroughs tale of a screwed up childhood it wouldn't have been as remotely interesting. The art and the visual metaphors David B. has created are amazing. The ghost of his grandfather is the long-beaked black bird on the cover. The epilepsy is a black and spiky dragon slithering through the house.

I'll add two more images, dark but undeniably powerful. Click on them to see them bigger. David B.'s thought of what a medical procedure might be like and the family reacting to strangers when Jean-Christophe has a seizure in public. Powerful stuff indeed.