Everything you need to know about Allie Brosh comes in the first paragraph of Hyperbole and a Half:
“Here is a re-creation of a drawing I did when I was five. It’s a guy with one normal arm and one absurdly fucking squiggly arm. What you can’t see is that in the original, the squiggly arm continues for the entire length of a roll of butcher paper. It started on one end and then just kept going until I ran out of paper.”
While HAAH is Brosh’s first book, it is primarily a collection of pieces from her blog of the same name, itself a fabulous diary of essays/comics featuring Brosh as a crudely drawn but adorably emotive version of herself. In HAAH the book, Brosh’s essays cover everything from her encounter with a goose-perpetrated home invasion to the time she ate her grandfather’s entire birthday cake before his party, just to spite her mother…and to eat cake.
Mostly, Brosh varies between hilarious essays about her dogs (Simple Dog and Helper Dog, whose real names are irrelevant) and equally perfect essays about her neuroses, the sum total of which caused her to go MIA from the blogosphere (sorry) in 2011 after posting about her struggle with depression. A year and a half later, Brosh published “Depression Part 2,” which blew up the Internet (1.5 million visits in a single day, according to Mother Jones).
I actually remember a friend sending Depression Part 2 to me, with the note ” I now know that I’ve never really been depressed.” Ten minutes and a few tissues later, I was having the opposite reaction: With a series of unarguably silly drawings, Brosh manages to put into words (and pictures) a feeling that is difficult to explain — using the millions of actual words available to us — to those who have never felt it personally. And while all of HAAH is good, it isn’t until the first Depression piece (both are included) that I really began to care about Brosh, and to get a sense of her emotional depth.
Depressions 1 and 2 belie the lightheartedness of Hyperbole and a Half, but glimmers of Brosh’s cynicism appear throughout. As a like-minded Realist (read: Debbie Downer), her subtle negativity was a happy surprise for me, and an almost necessary counterweight to the inherent visual cutesyness of the whole cartoon concept.
HAAH feels effortless, which it at least originally was: Brosh says the blog came out of putting off studying for her finals. If I’d known one might find professional fulfillment doing whatever it was they were actually doing when they should have been studying, I’d have put in my request for Vice President of Watching Law & Order: SVU years ago.
TITLE: Hyperbole and a Half
AUTHOR: Allie Brosh
PAGES: 370 (paperback)
ALSO WROTE: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
SORTA LIKE: Fran Liebowitz does The Oatmeal
FIRST LINE: “When I was ten years old, I wrote a letter to my future self and buried it in my backyard.”