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

Allie Brosh
Touchstone, 2013
384 pages

If you've read the incredibly popular blog that spawned this book, you more or less know everything you need to know about this book. There's really not much to say to the "already fans." About half of the stuff is the favorites from the site (though, sadly, no Kenny Loggins ruining Christmas here), and the rest is, I guess, new content made especially for the book.

If you don't know what Hyperbole and a Half is, you can find out by clicking here. I found the site a few years back, can't remember how (one of those things where maybe someone else linked to it) and laughed so hard at "The Party" that I had to go back and read ALL the posts. And as with pretty much anything in comedy, some posts are funnier than others, and a lot of it depends on your mood at any given time and/or your personal tastes in comedy. I guess the fact that HaaH is so hugely popular at least means Brosh uses a broad enough brush that a large swath of the populace can appreciate her brand of humor.

The book, then, is pretty much more of the same. It's interestingly done as each "chapter" (what would be a post on the site) has its own background color, so the book itself is kind of a rainbow. (No, don't taste it.) I didn't laugh as much as I hoped to while reading it, but that could be because I'm stressed out by visiting family. Or maybe content just isn't as funny when one is forced to create it so a publisher can meet its deadline. I don't know.

Brosh has been pretty forward about her battle with depression, and I'll say she hits that nail rather squarely. Sometimes the truth isn't funny. But corn can be. (I say this as a fellow sufferer. And if you've never sat and laughed for no reason except that your brain broke and settled on something mundane as the funniest fucking thing in the world, well, you just don't get it.)

Probably her best entries in the book are about her dogs, and it's really the pictures that put these over the top; the way the simple dog thinks in brightly colored shapes is pretty damn funny, and if you've ever owned a dog, you totally understand. Even if your dog was smart instead of simple, you can relate. (I grew up with lots of dogs, some smart, some not, and even the smart ones did the stupidest things. Because they were dogs. And dogs do not apply a whole lot of logic to their existences.) Alas, most of the dog entries are already on the blog. And again, the ones that are not aren't as funny. Except maybe the bees . . . My parents' dog eats bees . . . WTF is that about?

It's when Brosh attempts to get introspective that the book sort of draws downward and away from funny. Her observations are valid and it's easy to relate; anyone who is at all self-aware (and it's difficult to guess how many people are these days, but still) has felt the same. They just aren't entirely funny. I mean, we all silently hate at things with our minds sometimes and hope that will be enough to change the circumstances. And of course it isn't. And it's pretty ridiculous when you stop and consider the fact that there is no way to alter our realities just by thinking hard enough (unless you believe in The Secret? I haven't read it, but isn't that about thinking hard enough to change things?) . . . But these entries still fell short of laugh-out-loud funny. For me. I'm sure plenty of people laughed quite audibly.

But that's humor for you. It's so much more difficult to write than drama because the sense of humor is so varied and slippery. It's dependent on culture, and on timing, and on a person's mood and receptivity at any given moment. It's dependent on personal experience as well as broader understanding of the world and how it works (or fails to work). If I had been reading the book in my office instead of my bedroom, would I have felt differently? Maybe. If I had not had guests around, would that have made a difference in my feelings about this book? Probably.

I don't know what to say except . . . This book is kind of funny? Could be funnier? Might be funnier if I read it again later? The blog is still really funny, though. And maybe that's key. Maybe it's about going to the watering hole when you need a drink—a big, tall glass of funny. Sometimes things are better in small bites than in big gulps. HaaH may be one of those things.

At least for me.

You go make up your own minds.

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