Review by: Mark Palm
It's hard to write about humor without giving a lot of examples because humor is so subjective. What leaves me rolling in the aisle might elicit a chuckle from the next person and fall as flat as a flounder to the person after that. That's why this review was so tough for me because I want to tell you so much of Hyperbole and A Half that you probably wouldn't need to go out and get the book. And you should go out and get the book. That way I won't have to tell you about the time-capsule letter that Ms. Brosh received from her ten-year old self asking her to please write back when she opens the letter fifteen years later or about how she used to creep her parents out by watching them sleep from the corner of the room or about the Simple dog and the Helper dog. All of these stories, accompanied by Ms. Brosh's simple, deadpan illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny, to me anyway.
For those of you who may be living under a rock Ms. Brosh is a blogger who has millions of faithful readers, and Hyperbole and A Half is a collection of essays and stories that have appeared on the blog along with new material. At its most basic the blog and now this book consists of Ms. Brosh writing about herself with child-like illustrations accompanying the text. Yet the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. If this book was nothing but funny I would still rave about it, but one of the centerpieces of this collections is about when Ms. Brosh underwent a bout with depression so serious that she stopped her blog for over a year and contemplated and planned her suicide.
That episode is here, and it's simple, and affecting, and surprisingly as funny as the rest. Ms Brosh recounts the moment when she felt that her depression may have begun to recede; she was lying on the kitchen floor, pointlessly crying, when she looked under the refrigerator, and saw a single shriveled kernel of corn. Somehow this sent her into gales of laughter so hard she was afraid that she might die from it. It may not seem like much here, but Ms. Brosh makes this stuff of life absolutely sing.
There is so much more as well. Ms. Brosh has the talent and skill to recognize that the depth and clarity of her observation is what makes her feel so set apart and at the same time, what makes her so unique. Her vision is clear, and when she turns it on herself she doesn’t always like what she sees, but the unflinching honesty is what raises much of this above the level of observational comedy. Yet no matter what, the humor comes through, and at the end of it all, this work is still above all comedy. I know that seems like a paradox, but good comedy often is.
Ms. Brosh's illustrations are also an important part of the book. At first they seem shockingly simple, but as the book unfurls the placement of the visuals begins to feel more and more sophisticated, and purposeful, even as they keep their child-like charm. I feel like I could go on and on, but there is little worse than listening to how funny something is second-hand. I know that I said that comedy is subjective, but Hyperbole and A Half is funny. Take my word.