Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

by Touchstone

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  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013:

    Who among us has not, in moments that sometimes bleed through years, even decades, felt weird, desperate, and
    absurd--wishing we could turn all the lamest, most shameful episodes in our lives into hilarious illustrated anecdotes?
    If youre one of the millions hanging on Allie Brosh's every blog post, you already know you'll love Hyperbole and a Half
    in book form, especially since half its hyperboles are new. If you're suspicious of books because you live in a world of
    the INTERNET FOREVER, this is where you make an exception. If you just stumbled across Brosh and can't yet grasp the
    allure of a Web comic illustrated by rudimentary MS Paint figures, believe the hype. Brosh has a genius for allowing us
    to channel her weird childhood and the fits and starts of her adulthood through the manic eyes, gaping mouths, and
    stick-like arms in the panels that masterfully advance her stories, and she delivers her relentless commentary with
    deadpan hilarity. Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining. --Mari Malcolm

    Guest Review of Hyperbole and a Half

    By Bill Gates

    Bill Gates Bill Gates is a technologist, business leader, and philanthropist. He grew up in Seattle, Washington,
    with an amazing and supportive family who encouraged his interest in computers at an early age. He dropped out of
    college to start Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. He married Melinda French in 1994 and they have three
    children. Today, Bill and Melinda Gates co-chair the charitable foundation bearing their names and are working together
    to give their wealth back to society. This review originally appeared on Bill’s personal blog the Gates Notes on May
    19th, 2015.

    Some of the books I’ve recommended as summer reads really aren’t. They’re long nonfiction books that might look a
    little out of place beside the pool or on the beach.

    But Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened , by
    Allie Brosh, is an honest-to-goodness summer read. You will rip through it in three hours, tops. But you’ll wish it went
    on longer, because it’s funny and smart as hell. I must have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages
    that made me laugh out loud.

    The book consists of brief vignettes and comic (in both senses of the word) drawings about Brosh’s young life (she’s in
    her late 20s). It’s based on her wildly popular website.

    Brosh has quietly earned a big following even though, as her official bio puts it, she “lives as a recluse in her
    bedroom in Bend, Oregon.” The adventures she recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of
    inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public. Despite her book’s title, Brosh’s stories feel
    incredibly—and sometimes brutally—real.

    I don’t mean to suggest that giving an outlet to our often-despicable me is a novel form of humor, but she is really
    good at it. Her timing and tone are consistently spot on. And so is her artwork. I’m amazed at how expressive and
    effective her intentionally crude drawings are.

    Some of Brosh’s stories are funny without being particularly meaningful, such as her tales about her two dogs and their
    humorously illogical inner thoughts. Here’s a typical snippet: “To the simple dog, throwing up was like some magical
    power that she never knew she possessed—the ability to create infinite food. I was less excited about the discovery
    because it turned my dog into a horrible, vomit-making perpetual-motion machine.”

    And here’s a typical illustration:

    image 1 But her best stuff is the deep stuff, especially the chapters about her battles with severe depression.
    There is a lot of self-revelation here but no self-pity. She brings the same wit to this subject as she does to her
    stories about her dogs—even if it makes the reader more likely to tear up than crack up.

    Here’s a typical snippet that follows a riff about feeling suicidal and not quite knowing how to let loved ones know
    about these feelings:

    COMIC_2 I suspect that anyone who has experienced depression would get a lot out of reading this book. The mental
    illness she describes is profoundly isolating: “When you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating
    your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.” It must be
    empowering for those who have struggled with depression to read this book, see themselves, and know they’re far from

    It might be even more valuable for those who have a friend, colleague, or family member who has experienced
    depression. Hyperbole and a Half gave me a new appreciation for what a depressed person is feeling and not feeling, and
    what’s helpful and not helpful. Here’s a good example: “People want to help. So they try harder to make you feel
    hopeful…. You explain it again, hoping they’ll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability
    to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative, like maybe you WANT to be depressed. So the positivity starts
    coming out in a spray—a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face.”

    I get why Brosh has become so popular. While she self-deprecatingly depicts herself in words and art as an odd
    outsider, we can all relate to her struggles. Rather than laughing at her, you laugh with her. It is no hyperbole to say
    I love her approach—looking, listening, and describing with the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of
    an artist, and the wit of a comedian.