Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (2013)

I've been a huge fan of the blog Hyperbole and a Half for a years so when I saw Allie Brosh's book Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened on Netgalley, I requested it immediately. Out of all the books I've ever requested, it was the first one that had me compulsively checking my email waiting for notification of my approval so I could start reading it straightaway. Once the approval came through, I devoured the book immediately.

And I enjoyed every page. 

Most people who have spent even a minimal amount of time on the internet will be familiar with Brosh's distinctive humour and visual style. Her images and word have sparked a number of memes, the most famous being Clean All The Things, which she is excellently happy for people to use as they will. Her work recounts experiences from her life with humour and pathos and the style of the book is very faithful to her blog. I was actually amazed at how well this internet comic lends itself to a print format - if anything, it's funnier having the (very slightly) delayed gratification of turning the page before seeing the next comic.

This leads me to my first concern with the book, in that many of the chapters are lifted directly from the blog with little or no modification. This is not a huge issue for me - I think Adventures in depression and Depression Part Two are wonderful, meaningful and poignant and I would have been disappointed if they hadn't been included in the print version. However, I know that reprinting blog content is an issue that many people have with print versions of blogs - why should they pay for something they got for free before (I tend to think why shouldn't a blogger profit from their own hard work? But that's just my view.)

The second concern that I have is the book's structure. It is basically a collection of illustrated short stories without any link other than they feature Brosh's pink cartoon alter ego, leading to the odd editorial situation where we have an entire (hilarious) chapter devoted The Simple Dog but then have a section in another chapter where the dog is introduced and its simpleness explained, which I found a bit jarring. Also, it isn't clear to me why the chapters are structured the way that they are - there's adult Allie stories interpersed with child Allie stories without a clear thematic link. The last chapter is really really sad, so after reading that one I had to go back and re-read a happier funnier chapter. My Hollywood training has taught me that things should end on an up note! But again, this is probably only a thing for me and no-one else.

The unexpected sadness and poignancy of this book is one of the reasons I will wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who will listen. I literally laughed out loud in several parts and in one place giggled so hard I needed to stop reading for a bit, yet other chapters of it made me feel sad and want to reach into the pages and hug the author who was writing with pain that felt so real. So everyone - buy this book, read this book, buy more copies of this book and give them away to others so they can read this book. It is a very good book.

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