Simple and deep: a book review of Hyperbole and a Half

I was first introduced to the writings and drawings of Allie Brosh when a fellow blogger sent me a link to Allie’s post about “the Alot.” After reading it, I immediately subscribed to her Hyperbole and a Half blog.

Allie didn’t blog on a regular schedule, but each time her gently piercing cartoons arrived in my inbox, I rejoiced. When she gradually stopped blogging altogether, I wondered what had happened to her.

Hyperbole and a HalfThen she posted a blog about her struggle with depression and celebrity, and it helped explain where she had been. And I read an interview about her struggle, and she mentioned her upcoming book, and I knew I would need a copy.

Deep words

Allie is recognized for her distinctive drawings (which seem child-like but are carefully nuanced), but I am just as impressed with her writing. She has a wry intelligence that can be both hilarious and poignant. And she is decidedly unique (maybe even strange), yet her stories resonate with millions of people.

Listen to how she describes her depression:

“And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something—it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling all the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

“It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to figure out why they disappeared.

“…The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say ‘Sorry about how dead your fish are,’ or ‘Wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.'”

I love that.

I don’t know how common or how personal depression is, but judging from the 5,000 comments on this post in her blog, Allie’s words are hitting home.

Simple pictures

Her drawings are too. Somehow, in her bright colors and trembly lines, Allie Brosh conveys a range of complex emotions. And she presents her visual story frame by frame with a sense of comic timing that feels like live stand-up. Take a look at the series below (which is of course copyrighted to Allie Brosh and is only included here as a review sample), about her canine companion, Simple Dog:

[Note: An alert reader let me know that the flipbook I created below does not appear on all mobile devices. Sorry. You’ll have to wait until you’re at your desktop to get the full effect.]

Notice how Simple Dog’s positioning changes just enough to give you the impression that something is going on inside that doggy head, but she just can’t quite make the connection. And I love the changing expressions on Allie’s face, too.

More about Allie Brosh

I recommend Hyperbole and a Half—the book as well as the blog—for anyone who has pets or children or parents or emotions or ADHD or a tendency toward perfectionism or a love of grammar.

And if you’d like to learn more about Allie, check out these interviews:

  • NPR (read the highlights, but also listen to the recorded story)
  • GoodReads (really good questions asked by the interviewer)

 

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