(Un)comfortably Close: A Review of ‘Hyperbole and a Half’

By Brent Glass

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Have you ever had a desire to laugh?  Of course you have.  I’ve met some individuals that I thought didn’t enjoy humor… at all.  But, I suspect, even those people like to cackle every now and again.  People often derive their portion of comedic relief from movies.  Comedies come out almost on a weekly basis, and while many do not live up to the hype, there are some diamonds in the rough.  A much harder medium to derive laughter from though (at least in my opinion) is literature.  There are some funny books, but rarely can a book cause me to laugh out loud.  I was delightfully surprised, however, when I made an impulse buy and it exceeded my expectations.  The book was Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh and this seemingly goofy collection of blog posts brought me into an intimate world, normally reserved for close friends and family.

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The masterstroke of Brosh’s work is her matter-of-fact manner of self-examination.  Many people spend their lives in denial, justifying apathy and poor decisions.  Brosh does not claim to be any different; rather, she explores dark areas of her life, never reluctant to share her ugly internal thoughts.  One may be thinking, This is humor?  Oops, I forgot to mention: Most of it is dark humor.  Aside from her crude accompanying drawings, two of her most renowned pieces are entitled “Depression Part One” and “Depression Part Two.”  Written during a hiatus from her blogging, these two entries offer an intimately – sometimes uncomfortably – close look into the psyche of a chronically depressed person.

Again, one may be thinking, “What’s so funny about that?  It sounds… depressing.”  No doubt the stories can be construed as depressing.  However, the thoughts of a depressed person are hardly logical – no matter how logical the individual normally may be.  These thoughts, often pathetic and self-loathing, become the chorus of laughter.  They are thoughts that everyone has had at one point or another but would never like to admit to.  People obstruct others’ view of their true character by putting up a façade.  Even good friends and family members do not share the very worst of their thoughts or actions.  Brosh, however, crushed the predispositions of millions, reminding readers that people deal with things like depression.  Sometimes spells of depression don’t make sense and there isn’t much rhyme or reason, but they will pass.  And when they do, it’s okay to look back and laugh at yourself.  Allie is simply poking fun at her own pathetic thoughts without, however – and this is important – downplaying the seriousness of depression.

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Good news!  Not all of Brosh’s pieces are that dark.  Many, in fact, are a little lighter and involve crazy situations with animals – particularly her dogs.  Anyone who has owned a dog, or really has even been around one for longer than fifteen minutes, will find the content to be especially amusing.  Highlighting simple dumb things dogs tend to do, Brosh perfectly assumes the quandaries of dog owners everywhere.  Many of her stories involve her dogs, but one in particular sums up her brilliant commentary on the (usually) friendly creatures: “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving.”

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Allie Brosh is the author of an award-winning blog titled Hyperbole and a HalfA member of the graduating class of 2009 from the University of Montana, Brosh, and her husband, Duncan, now reside in Bend, Oregon (close to where all the hipsters play).  Brosh blogs professionally and her husband works on cancer research; both are just as meaningful, of course.

I really liked this book.  4.75/5

Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in public policy.

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