Eugene Public Library Director Connie Bennet reviews Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half".
Three months ago, 28-year-old Allie Brosh published her first book, "Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened.” My daughter brought the book to my attention (“Hey Mom, Oregon author!”). Before that, Allie Brosh was totally off my radar. My bad.
Four years ago, while holed up in her bedroom in Bend, Brosh started an autobiographical comic Internet blog (also called “Hyperbole and a Half”) which, with more than 72 million visits, earned her a spot on PC World's "Funniest Sites on the Web" and a 2011Bloggies Award. It turns out most of my younger, cyber-savvy friends have been fans for years.
With a collection of graphic essays, Brosh’s work translates surprisingly well from blog to book. Her illustrations initially appear misleadingly simple, featuring a fish-like alter ego in a pink dress. Rarely has MS Paint expressed so incredible a depth of emotion and movement.
While some deal with dog psychology or childhood peccadillos, many of the pieces deal with Brosh's struggle with depression. I’ve not encountered another writer who was able to engage readers so vividly - and hilariously – in the first person experience of serious depression.
Not normally a noisy reader, I found myself actually laughing out loud by page four, while reading the letter she wrote and buried in a hole in her back yard when she was ten. The letter was addressed to her twenty-five year old self and ends with the plea, “Please write back.” With compassion and humor, Brosh replies not only to the little ten year old but also to several other struggling younger selves: the five, six, seven, and thirteen year old.
Her final letter: “Dear other iterations of my past self. Thank you for not being so goddamn weird that I felt I had to address you personally in a letter from the future. I commend you.” When we laugh, it’s at least in part the laughter of self-recognition.
Whimsical, colorful, searingly honest, a quick read – I couldn’t recommend the book more highly. And – like me – you’ll probably want to become a fan of the blog, too, while waiting for the sequel.