Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $21)
By Stuart Nulman
Allie Brosh uses two tools to express her rather anxiety-ridden upbringing in Idaho and her constant battles with depression and other personal issues: her computer and the MS Paintbrush software.
Using them to their fullest extent, she has created a bog called “Hyperbole and a Half”, which are filled with hyper style narratives and crude, almost child-like drawings – which at times the autobiographical lead character almost resembles the focal subject of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – that are at times side splittingly funny, but also hit close to home for those who undergo those same personal issues.
Since its debut more than two years ago, Brosh’s blog (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com) has attracted over 300,000 “likes” on Facebook and was included on the list of the funniest sites on the web by PC World magazine. And her brutally honest, humourous look at her offbeat way of coping with personal depression and anxiety will attract even more followers with the recent publication of her book.
The book version of Hyperbole and a Half consists of 18 stories, which includes stories that originally appeared on Brosh’s blog, as well as some stories that were written exclusively for the book. For those who are entering into Brosh’s angst-ridden world for the first time by reading this book (myself included), you are indeed in store for quite the rollercoaster of a ride.
The hyperkinetic narrative style coupled with the intentionally crude illustrations shows that Brosh’s life has been anything but normal … yet “dysfunctional” barely begins to describe the type of life she has had so far. The stories are at times hysterically funny, but are so logically analytical that they never fail to touch an emotional nerve no matter what the subject matter is.
Some of my personal favorites in this book include “The God of Cake”, which chronicles Brosh’s almost destructive craving for birthday cake when she was a young girl, especially her dogged determination to get a taste of the cake her mom baked for her grandfather’s 73rd birthday; “Lost in the Woods”, the almost traumatic hike in the woods of northern Idaho Brosh’s mother took her and her sister to, and tries to hide the fact that they were hopelessly lost by doing a series of meaningless “games” (such as a pine cone hunt); “Dogs’ Guide to Understanding Basic Concepts”, one of the funniest entries in the collection, in which Brosh futilely tries to explain rational, basic concepts of canine behaviour and their relationships to humans to her two not-your-average pet dogs – “Simple Dog” and “Helper Dog” – who will never fathom the concepts she tries to spell out to them; and her two-part entry about how she has struggled with depression, and somehow manages to express her struggles, coping mechanisms and coming to terms with her illness in such a comprehensible manner.
Hyperbole and a Half is a book that proves through the power of the blog, that Allie Brosh has courageously opened up to a large audience in a funny and brutally frank approach on how she has to face her personal issues and demons on a daily basis. As well, it can serve as an important message to the millions who also undergo such similar struggles that there are ways to come to terms with such difficulties without suffering any shame or stigma.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.