Summary: 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:
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!
Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh 7.5
‘Hyperbole and a Half’ is a popular blog and webcomic by Allie Brosh which, with a touch of acerbic humour, recounts some of her childhood experiences along with her adult ones. This book, which is subtitled “Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened” is a collection of some of her best material along with some newer stuff.
I was recommended the book by a close friend of mine who had just read it, loved it and thought I would too. Since she knows me very well and has a sense of the sort of twisted crap I’m into, I figured that there was a decent chance that a book called ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ might be right up my alley. Plus which it has a bunch of pretty pictures in it – which means less reading.
Actually, truth be told, the drawrings are positively awful – but intentionally so (or so I’ve read). Of course, it’s easy to say you’re purposely doing something badly when you’re bad at it; it masks your failed attempts at self-improvement. One can apply it to any aspect of life, really: yeah, I purposely dress badly, or I perpously rite pourly becoz it amoozes me 2.
It’s not because I suck.
Either way, I find the character of Allie hilarious to look at: a white slug dressed in a pink tube and with a yellow cone for hair (or for a hat: it’s hard to tell), she grins weirdly, looks confused, glum or ticked off much of the time. For some reason, Brosh decided to portray herself as a freak, something that is enhanced by the revelations she decided to share with her readers.
The way she depicts herself is as an extreme neurotic who can’t be reasoned with. What’s interesting is that she expresses herself really well, and can relate her crazy notions accurately, which suggests an analytical mind. But the behaviour that she describes is that of a person who is anything but self-aware, of someone borderline insane – which flies in the face of her success.
Her blogs have got to be hyperbolic, because anyone as disturbed as this would not be able to function properly in society – let alone write about it so articulately and in such a self-deprecating fashion. And her childhood self is such a retarded nightmare that she would drive any parent to spontaneous homicide or grotesque self-immolation. That child would be taken away and medicated heavily.
In fact, there’s this really long segment, in two parts, about Allie’s experiences with deep depression. It was interesting how she balanced humour with the dark reality of that suffering. Naturally, it’s not the funniest segment of the book, but it was quite good, all things considered – if a bit long. Those blog entries have been widely acclaimed for their realistic portrayal of depression.
‘Hyperbole and a Half’ also has its side-splitting moments, too: “The Helper Dog is an Asshole” provoked a laughing fit. I was laughing so hard while reading it that I became slightly self-conscious. Not that it stopped me from laughing. It’s just the story of her new dog, but I think it was the combo of the crazy doodles of the manic dog with the idea that it was utterly psychotic that made me laugh so much.
“Thoughts and Feelings” was also quite amusing because it reminded me of people I’ve known, people whose expectations of things, people, life, weren’t essentially cogent with reality; real life just doesn’t jive with these people’s expectations/desires/needs, making their existence unbearable. So they get overwhelmed with simple things, freaking out. Until the next thing that doesn’t meet their expectations, that is.
At my work, there’s a woman who, pretty much every time she comes in from her various breaks, complains about the weather or the temperature inside our workplace: one day it’s too cold outside, the next day it’s too warm. So she sighs heavily as she passes by and complains loudly to everyone within earshot. Weather is funny that way: it changes all the time. It’s pointless to whine, but some people do.
I also recognized myself in some ways in various parts of the book, like when Allie has a hard time making the faces that match the expression that people expect from her, or when she questions her inherent goodness because everything she does seems to come from a self-centered root, including wanting to be seen as being a good person. I struggle with that too – albeit not to the extreme degree that the cartoon Allie does.
In any case, I enjoyed reading ‘Hyperbole and a Half’. I have no idea if Brosh’s stories are true, embellished or wholesale fabrications, but I found this quite entertaining: it was funny, oft-insightful and well-conceived. As a creative work, it’s a success. But, should it be an unvarnished biographical work, I can’t help but worry about Brosh: she sounds as bewildered by herself as she is bewildering.
At the very least, I hope that her blog provides a sufficient outlet for her to get a handle on things. Sometimes that’s all you need. And ranting, or hyperbole and a half, is a great way to vent, to unload the pressure that’s building inside. Done with a flair for seeing the absurdity in one’s self and in others, it can be a real blast – both for the storyteller and his/her audience.
I hope that Brosh will continue to share her skewed view with us for years to come.