I picked up Hyperbole and a Half on a recent trip to Waterstones Gower St, but it wasn’t exactly a planned purchase – although it had been on my wishlist for a while and I had been thinking about buying it – because I wasn’t 100% sure that it wouldn’t just be a coffee table book that I’d flick through once, think was just okay, and then never come back to again. As it turns out, Hyperbole and a Half is well worth the purchase. I have been telling other people to read it since I finished the last story because it made such an impact on me. It won a Goodreads Choice Award for a reason, you know!
Hyperbole and a Half, as I’m sure you’re familiar, stems from Allie Brosh’s successful blog of the same name, made famous by the ‘ALL THE THINGS!’ internet meme. I discovered it one day in 2010 as I was casually browsing the internet and came across one of her illustrations. I clicked through to read more and after a few minutes I was giggling to myself, so I forwarded the blogpost onto to a friend, who responded with ‘HA! Clean ALL the things!’. I don’t really know why it resonates with people so much, perhaps because it captures such a simple, mundane moment so hilariously and accurately. Hyperbole and a Half is genuinely funny – I couldn’t resist starting it straight away and I found myself laughing out loud on the bus on the way home from the bookshop. I knew that I was going to love it.
Hyperbole and a Half is a memoir like no other. It’s particularly about Allie Brosh’s relationship with her two dogs – Simple Dog, who is unable to grasp the concept of stairs and Helper Dog, who is found to have developed a few psychotic episodes of his own, particularly involving other dogs and also snow – and her experience with depression, accompanied by simple yet brilliantly evocative illustrations. And surprisingly, these two subjects blend considerably well. Although Hyperbole and a Half tackles depression, it’s not depressing – that’s just not Allie Brosh’s style. She is immensely critical of herself, but she’s also conscious of the fact that she’s self-deprecating and that’s what makes you want to keep on reading. Allie manages to explain depression in a way that very few books do – so clear, real and understandable, not just an abstract concept that ‘happens to other people’. Hyperbole and a Half also features hilarious anecdotes from her life and childhood, from when she was determined to eat a slice of her grandfather’s birthday cake even after it was hidden from view (‘cake is the only thing that matters’) to when a goose managed to find its way into her home (‘most geese are dangerous psychopaths’). ‘Hyperbole’ is exactly the right word to describe what Allie Brosh does – it’s definitely exaggerated and ‘evokes strong feelings’, but it’s not fictional.
As for Allie Brosh’s drawings, well, I am jealous of her talent. No one has mastered MS Paint as well as she has and I cannot imagine any other style working so well. Hyperbole and a Half is a truly unique book; an incredibly honest and accurate portrayal of everyday life, and I cannot imagine anyone not laughing (even a little bit!) at her many ‘learning experiences’. Also, Allie is correct, the book is heavy.
“But she can’t do anything to prevent the world from containing other dogs, so instead, she is determined to make sure that no other dogs can enjoy existing. If she senses that another dog is enjoying itself nearby, she will do everything within her power to ruin that dog’s day”.
Published: 29th October 2013 (US) 31st October 2013 (UK)
Publisher: Touchstone (US) Square Peg (UK)