Recommended for fans of humorous biographies, people with
problem dogs, people who love cake ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Allie Brosh astounds me. Despite her strange little drawings, particularly a self-portrait that looks something like a marine tube worm, she reaches some profound truths in the course of her book. Part graphic novel, part autobiography, she manages to both amuse and discomfort the reader in the best of ways. Though she presents herself as a person struggling with severe depression issues in a number of the stories, she touches on human truths most of us experience.
Hyperbole and a Half originates from her wildly popular blog of the same name (link to her site). Satisfying on a laptop screen, I enjoyed the paper version even more. Made of heavy paper, each section has a different colored page background, making it look a little like a stack of heavy construction paper from the side. It’s a pleasing way to highlight a change in topics. Subjects range from childhood experiences to struggles with her dogs to self-identity and depression. “Dinosaur (the Goose story)” created out-loud laughs with its great pictures. I confess, “The God of Cake” is one of my favorite stories, precisely because I can completely relate. I too have schemed obsessively to get cake, and that tell-tale smear of pink icing at the corner of the mouth–priceless.
The series showing the progressive cake-induced hyperglycemia are hysterical in their accuracy: the dilated eyes, the slightly glazed expression, the dance of sugary joy, the expansive smile…
Contrast her little pink self with the attention to detail when drawing her ‘special dog.’ The detail in the coat is a great contrast to the solid Colorforms of her characters. And if you have a dog, you must recognize this pose of confused submission:
I love her humor, her truths, her candidness in sharing some of the awful times of her life, and for being genuine with it, not merely going for laughs–although there are plenty of those. There is an incident during her depression where she relates how she is lying on the floor and discovers a piece of corn under the fridge. It is a perfect example of relating how she experienced that moment, without going for laughs. It is absurd, poignant, honest, and a little uncomfortable. And she leaves it there. Brave choice.
I confess, this is rather what I was hoping for when I read Jenny Lawson’s semi-autobiography, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. With her strange little drawings and her frankness about isolation and emotions, Brosh won a spot in my heart. Rather entranced by her blog, I decided to order her book as a way of support, despite a space-challenged library. I encourage anyone who follows her to do the same, so you can have a lasting copy of her work.