Archive for Allie Brosh

The Return of Allie Brosh

My children, it is a hard world out there. But there are still some happy surprises out there. And thus we come to this review of Solutions and Other Problems by the one and only Allie Brosh.

The last time most of us heard anything from Allie was way back in 2013, when her previous book, “Hyperbole and a Half,” came out. For a long time, I figured she was, hopefully, just living life off the grid and away from the Internet. I also worried a bit that something worse had become of her. It’s absolutely news worth celebrating that she’s still out there creating wonderful things.

Not that it’s all great news, because things have also been damn hard for Allie, too. She got divorced, her parents got divorced, she had severe medical issues that landed her in the hospital, and her sister died. And she’s still living through depression, which certainly didn’t make anything else any easier. And it didn’t make it any easier to write and illustrate a book either, I expect.

So what do we get in this book? We get Allie’s childhood quest of making herself fit inside a bucket. We get her somewhat terrifying obsession as a toddler with sneaking into a neighbor’s house and stealing his stuff. We get the mysterious appearance of horse poop in the family’s house. We get a discussion on just how crazy animals may believe humans are.

There’s the question of fairness when dealing with a man who hammers on his roof early in the morning. There’s the argument over bananas. There’s the toddler with an unreasoning terror of dandelions. There’s the problem that “The Ugly Duckling” just doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s Allie’s not-well-planned-out plan to conquer her fears by taking drugs and then spending the night out in the country.

There’s the question of how to make friends with yourself if yourself isn’t sure they want to be friends with you.

Verdict: Thumbs up. First, a word of warning. (“NOW A WARNING?!”) Allie’s first book was a respectable 369 pages. This one is 518 pages long. It’s an absolute doorstopper. You could kill George R.R. Martin with this. Granted, it reads a lot faster than “War and Peace,” but you may not be prepared for how gigantic this book is.

There is a lot of gloriously funny stuff in here. Frankly, it wouldn’t be an Allie Brosh book otherwise, ’cause she has a talent for finding the absurdity and humor in the everyday world as well as things that no one else would ever think was funny. She can write about a dying dog and mostly make you forget it’s dying.

But you don’t entirely forget the dog is dying. Tragedy and comedy walk hand-in-hand, and Allie’s life has been stuffed to the brim with both. And reading this book certainly paints a portrait we’ve seen play out far, far too often over the last few years — the artist and comedian who struggles against an almost overwhelming ocean of sorrow and depression and loneliness.

Allie’s artwork is still stunning. It’s evolved a lot — her preferred Allie-caricature looks less like a childish drawing and more like a very worried fish. But she still hides a lot of genuine artistic skills in her fake-bad cartoons, and you’ll find something to marvel at every few pages.

The Internet loves Allie Brosh. She’s helped shape the way we make jokes, she’s written basically the best explanation of what depression is like from the inside. She’s helped us exult in cleaning ALL THE THINGS! We want good things for her, because she’s wonderfully funny, she’s insightful, and she deserves all the possible good things.

So you should definitely get this book. And you should also think good thoughts to the Internet’s friend, Allie Brosh. She needs ’em, please.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Hyperbole and a Half

It’s Christmas Eve, but I think we have time for one final dip into our Holiday Gift Bag. Today, let’s look at Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half.


A lot of y’all probably read Brosh’s amazing website already — she specializes in pants-wettingly funny essays, accompanied by her equally hilarious semi-primitive artwork — and the occasional extremely sad story, which often ends up being fairly funny, too. Yeah, she’s got a great grasp of the way comedy can be found in tragedy.

But now she’s written a book, some of it taken from her website, and some of it all new material. There are a few old favorites, like “The God of Cake” and “The Party,” and there are quite a few that are completely new — the full story of her hopelessly crazy Helper Dog, Allie’s letters from (and to) her 10-year-old self, getting lost in the woods with her mom and sister, and plenty more.

It’s not all silly stuff, though. The book also includes her lengthy essay on what it’s like to be depressed, as well as her thoughts on perception and identity — and the nature of thought itself. But even then, Allie has a strong sense of the way life’s most serious moments still end up being surreal and unexpected — so they’re still pretty silly. This is in no way a bad thing.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Internet loves Allie Brosh, which is just proof that the Internet is really, really smart.

Let’s talk about the art first. It looks really goofy and crude, doesn’t it? No human looks like that, with the stick arms and cone hair. But it ain’t crude at all. Yeah, it’s designed to look like it was done in MSPaint — but Brosh spends a lot of time tweaking the art to make sure it looks right. And it’s got a lot of sophistication hidden behind the primitive exterior — there’s a lot of emotion and unexpected detail. If she’s making the art in MSPaint — well, she’s really good at making art in MSPaint, ain’t she?

The book is very funny. You will find stories in here that will make you laugh ’til you need new underwear. But her essays on depression are some of the most heart-breaking things you’ll ever read — and also the most insightful and educational. I’ve been depressed before, but after reading Brosh’s essays, it’s very, very clear that I’ve never been clinically depressed. And I also feel like I have a much greater understanding of what an absolute hell it must be to go through that, and I know now not to say a lot of the things I used to say. Her “dead fish” analogy should be required reading for anyone who has friends or family who are depressed.

If you know someone who loves Allie Brosh’s website, you should get ’em this book. If you know someone who loves really amazing humor and goofball cartoons, you should get ’em this book. If you know someone who likes a little seriousness with their comedy, you should get ’em this book. And hey, it may be Christmas Eve, but this one’s a fairly new release, so you may even be able to find it at your local bookstore. So go pick it up!

Oh, and if you want even more gift ideas, check out my previous Holiday Gift Bag posts. You might find some other ideas under my posts about graphic novels, superhero prose fiction, and even the fabled Not a Comic Book tag. Happy last-minute shopping, everyone!

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