Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekly Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Click to find this book in our catalogue.
Hyperbole and a Half: unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened by Allie Brosh
Released: 2013
Genre: Illustrated Comedy / Memoir


This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn't me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I'm not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

  • Pictures
  • Words
  • Stories about things that happened to me
  • Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
  • Eight billion dollars*
  • Stories about dogs
  • The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness.

[From Goodreads.]


Allie Brosh's popular blog, Hyperbole and a Half, started up in 2009 with mostly text posts, but it wasn't until Allie started incorporating her now-famous drawings that it really took off. Over time, the blog metamorphosed into something halfway between a webcomic and a (non-fiction) short-story collection, and though it seldom updates, it appears to have maintained its popularity.

Perhaps her most famous panel, inspiration for the "X all the Y" meme.

Brosh's art is crude but charming, and it evinces a deeper understanding of perspective, anatomy, and movement than one might expect from characters whose complexity ranks only a few notches above "stick-figure." The drawings are just as hyperbolic as the name might suggest, and they infuse Brosh's already funny stories with enough humor to send you into a laughing fit as your unfeeling computer monitor stares stoically on. Their simplicity is obviously a stylistic choice, as her posts are peppered with art of higher fidelity. She alternates between the two styles as the story demands, and the overall effect is hilarious.

Her stories are at once silly and thoughtful. Brosh draws on real-life anecdotes for the majority of her posts. A good choice, considering the interesting life she's led. Most of her posts are funny, though a few (see: Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two) are tinged with melancholy and whole lotta truth. I first read Depression Part Two at a very dark point in my life, and it amazed me how similar our experiences were. It was comforting to know that I wasn't alone. Depression Part Two may not be the funniest of Allie's posts, but it is one of her best. Relatable for the depressed and enlightening for those who've never really known depression, the Depression two-parter deserves a read, whether in print or digital form.

Some of the stories in this book are available on her website, but readers are treated to 10 pieces only available in print. Warning Signs, in which twenty-seven-year-old Allie, spurred by a time capsule left by her ten-year-old self, confronts herself at various stages of her life, is a particularly good one. It also hits a little close to home as I, like Allie, may have been obsessed with dogs at some point in my childhood. I may have, in fact, liked dogs more than people. That might not be surprising, however, as the list of things I liked more than people includes:

  • The Internet
  • Dragons
  • Velociraptors
  • Books
  • Pokemon
  • Digimon
  • Monster Rancher
  • Just about anything with "mon" in the title
  • Fictional Characters

Other new content includes The Helper Dog is an Asshole, a belated introduction to Helper Dog, who made her first appearance in the absurdly popular Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving, The Hot Sauce Debacle, The Parrot, Motivation, Lost in the Woods, Thoughts and Feelings, Dogs' Guide to Understanding Basic Concepts, and Identity Parts 1 and 2. Dinosaur (The Goose Story), based on a text-only post from early 2010, has been refurbished with added visuals and more refined storytelling.
The old content is well worth looking over, even if you've seen it before, as the artwork in Brosh's older stories has been updated for consistency with her newer material. The new panels preserve the tone of the originals while making it clear just how much Allie's artistic talent has evolved over the course of the blog.

Updated panels from "The God of Cake." Click to see the original post.

Overall, Hyperbole and a Half is a treat for readers both new and old. Come for the humor, stay for the insight, laugh at both.

You should also read:

Hark! A Vagrant

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