January 20th, 2020


Hyperbole and a Half [the book], by Allie Brosh

I'd been planning to buy Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened since, I don't know, 2011 or so? Back when Allie Brosh first announced that she was writing a book. The book took longer to release than she'd anticipated -- late 2013 instead of late 2012. I did hear about it when it came out, and I planned to buy it, and put it in my Amazon cart, and then didn't buy it.

For six years.

This year, I went to order snow boots from Amazon, because I had been meaning to buy snow boots in person for three months and still hadn't managed to and decided I'd better order some before the next snowstorm hit since it was already too late for the current one. While I was buying the snow boots, I saw Hyperbole and a Half sitting in that forlorn "saved to cart" part of the shopping cart where Amazon puts things that you added to the cart and never removed from it but also never actually bought, either.

All right. Let's finally buy this book.

I am perfectly content to have waited 6 years to get Hyperbole and a Half because it means that 2020 Me got to read it for the first time, and it is wonderful. Sorry you missed out, Past Rowyn, but Present Rowyn gets to benefit from your loss!

Some of the essays in the book are on her blog, also called Hyperbole and a Half, while many are new. Some of my favorite blog posts didn't make the cut, to my surprise. The Alot isn't in the book! Clean All the Things is, though. The publisher focused on Brosh's illustrated autobiographical essays more than on anything else.

You don't need me to tell you this book is great: it was wildly successful and has over 4,000 Amazon reviews. It is an extraordinarily funny book: by page 13, I was laughing too hard to keep reading. Every time I caught my breath, I would look at the same page and start wheezing again.

Lut: "Are you okay?"
Me: "This may take me a while to read."
Lut: "Yes. Because you can't breathe."

This book does need content notes, though: some of the essays address mental illness, and not all of the ones that are about mental illness discuss it by name. She talks frankly about depression and about coping methods and the problems with her coping methods. Often, the way she writes about herself, or her past self, uses brutal or cruel language. It's clear that one of Brosh's coping mechanisms is "humor" and she wields it with extraordinary skill. But I'd find myself going D: at her own self-condemnation. I found her essays sometimes enlightening -- she does a fantastic job of explaining her depression -- and sometimes painful to see her being so hard on herself.

Did you ever have one of those teachers who had a great sense of humor and was also really sarcastic, and if they mocked a kid the whole class would laugh because the teacher was so funny? And you'd laugh too, but you also knew that the teacher was mean and abusive and you wished they would stop making fun of students? Brosh is kind of like that, except the only person she mocks is herself. It's much easier to take than the abusive teacher but I do wish she would be nicer to herself. o_o

Oh, and her dogs. She mocks them too. I'm okay with that, the dogs can't read.

The essays are illustrated by Brosh's own cartoons, which are colorful and childlike and perfect for her subject. The book layout is excellent: I'd wondered how her style would translate from web to book form, but it's put together beautifully. One nice touch is that the background color for the pages changes between essays, so it's easy to tell when essays begin and end from just looking at the fore edge. There's also plenty of contrast between text and background colors.

Anyway, there are a bunch of different essays and many of them are not about mental illness or being unkind to anything -- I don't want to give the impression that it's all self-flagellation by any means. This is a solid 9.5 book, I loved reading it and highly recommend it. I am a little melancholy that she's not written anything else, at least under her own name, since.

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