Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘graphic nonfiction’

02 APRIL, 2014

Neurocomic: A Graphic Novel About How the Brain Works

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From the caves of memory to the castles of deception, by way of naughty neurotransmitters and giddy ganglia.

Scientists are only just beginning to understand how the brain works — from what transpires in it while we sleep to how to optimize its memory to what love does to it to how music affects it — and the rest of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between fascinated and confused when it comes to the intricate inner workings of our master-controller.

From British indie press Nobrow — who also brought us Freud’s graphic biography, those lovely illustrated chronicles of the Space Race and aviation, as well as Blexbolex’s magnificent No Man’s Land — comes Neurocomic (public library), a graphic novel about how the brain works. This remarkable collaboration between Dr. Hana Roš (and dog knows I love few things more than a female neuroscientist) and neuroscience-PhD-turned-illustrator Dr. Matteo Farinella, with support from the Wellcome Trust, explains the inner workings of the brain in delightful and illuminating black-and-white illustrations, covering everything from perception and hallucinations to memory and emotional recall to consciousness and the difference between the mind and the brain.

We take a stroll through a forest of neurons, then learn about neuroplasticity. (“This is the great power of the brain, it’s plastic!” they tell us in one of the most heartening and reassuring parts. “Once you learn something it is not set in stone, it’s continuously shaped by experience.”) We meet Pavlov and his famous studies of memory in 1897 Russia. We visit the haunting memory caves and the convoluted castles of deception.

This wonderful trailer for the film about the project, directed by Richard Wyllie, takes us behind the scenes of the duo’s marvelous collaboration and creative process:

Pair Neurocomic — which is gorgeous not only to behold but also to hold, bound in indigo fabric with silver-and-gold cover art — with the graphic biography of Charles Darwin, then dive deeper into the brain’s mysteries with the scientific riddle of left-handedness.

Images courtesy of Nobrow

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24 FEBRUARY, 2014

Freud’s Life and Legacy, in a Comic

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“You have to listen carefully. The unconscious mind is crafty.”

While Freud may have engineered his own myth and many of his theories may have been disputed in the decades since his heyday, he remains one of the most influential figures in the history of psychiatry and psychology. And yet for many, Freud is more metaphor than man and his name summons only a vague idea of his work — “something to do with penises,” our marginally informed collective conscience might whisper — rather than a true understanding of just how profoundly he influenced contemporary culture, from our mechanisms of consumerism to our notions about the self.

In recent years, the comic book genre has been applied to a wealth of graphic nonfiction for grownups, ranging from famous biographies to philosophy, but nowhere does the genre shine more exquisitely than in Freud (public library) — a magnificent biography-as-graphic-novel of the founding father of psychoanalysis by Swiss-born writer, economist, historian, and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier, illustrated by celebrated French cartoonist Anne Simon. Published by British indie press Nobrow — which also gave us Blexbolex’s brilliant No Man’s Land and some gorgeous illustrated chronicles of aviation and the Space Race — this unusual illustrated biography takes us through Freud’s life and legacy with equal parts scientific-historical rigor, sociocultural insight, and disarming wit, both visual and narrative.

From how his own childhood informed his ideas to his most famous cases, the captivating story weaves its way through Freud’s life to shed light on both the man and his metaphors for the mind.

Freud is absolutely fantastic from cover to cover. Complement it with Freud’s little-known correspondence with Einstein, then revisit the graphic biographies of Richard Feynman, Charles Darwin, Hunter S. Thompson, and Steve Jobs.

Images courtesy of Nobrow

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12 FEBRUARY, 2013

A Graphic Biography of Darwin

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The evolution of the father of evolution, illustrated.

Charles Darwin — father of evolution, decoder of human emotion, hopeless romantic, occasional grump — was born on February 12, 1809. From Smithsonian Books comes Darwin: A Graphic Biography (public library; UK) — a fine addition to outstanding graphic nonfiction, joining other famous graphic biographies of cultural icons like Richard Feynman, Hunter S. Thompson, The Carter Family, and Steve Jobs. Written by journalist Eugene Byrne and illustrated by cartoonist Simon Gurr, the story takes us into the life and times of Darwin — from a curious child on a “beeting” expedition to a patient young man persevering through the ups and downs of battling creationist oppression to a worldwide legend — tracing his intellectual adventures amidst the fascinating scientific world of the 1800s.

Complement Darwin: A Graphic Biography with the legendary naturalist’s original list of the the pros and cons of marriage, then revisit the best graphic novels of 2012.

Images courtesy Smithsonian Books

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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





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Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.