Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

I never know what to call these books. People refer to them as "graphic novels" even though it isn't a novel - it's nonfiction. I think I will go with graphic memoir. But it has a lot more straight text than other graphic memoirs I've read.

I have seen Ms. Brosh's blog, but I was never a regular follower. I know I saw a couple of the posts about her dogs, one that is very dumb and the other that is borderline psychotic. (And to the meanies out there who claim she's just incompetent at training them, I lived with a very dumb and very sweet dog for about ten years - she belonged to my sister - and when a dog can't successfully learn her name or be 100% paper trained in the house, you really have no hope at things like "sit" and "heel" or even "no.") And the post about her eating her grandfather's birthday cake. But they were just as good the second time around.

I loved the book. I just kept picking it up in spare moments and read it in just a few hours. I laughed out loud several times, and was very sad/worried in others. And that was also my biggest problem with the book - the tone of the essays varied wildly. I felt I was ricocheting off of walls. I wish the overall tone has been more consistent. Other personal essayists that I read do manage it (David Sedaris for one, although he is such a master it's perhaps an unfair comparison. But he does manage to have both essays about weddings and his mother's death in the same book that flow seamlessly, thanks to his unrelenting snarkiness.) I think perhaps some transitional language between the essays might have helped, or maybe grouping them by theme. Instead they seemed randomly sorted.

That said, it was my only complaint. I loved the impression of the different-colored paper (I'm pretty sure it was just full-colored white paper but I loved it). Her illustrations are just so batty and winsome. It's amazing how her picture of herself, which is so odd and simple and childlike, can give off such expression and emotion with just eyes and a mouth. And then you see in her illustrations of her dogs and occasional other things/people that she truly does have drawing ability and her simplistic child-like portrayal of herself is purposeful.

If you already love Allie Brosh, you will like this a lot (there's no new material though so it will be retreads for you) and if you just have seen her around ("CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!"), you will love it. If you have no idea who she is, but think this sounds amusing, you must go for it. But be warned there is a large section about her depression and another section where she figures out how shitty she really is, that aren't funny. But most of the rest of the book is.

I bought this at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

1 comment:

Christy (A Good Stopping Point) said...

Yeah, I think the great variance in tone was an issue for me as well. I wish the essays had been grouped differently and of course would have added some of my favorites from the blog that were not chosen for the book format.