Solutions And Other Problems, by Allie Brosh
In reading this book I have to admit that I had some complicated feelings and thoughts about this book. By and large, the author spends a book of 500 not very skillfully illustrated pages seeking to argue that life is unfair and that existence has no meaning. This would appear to be a self-defeating task, because in the very act of arguing that the existence has no meaning, the author is, in creating a massive work that took a lot of time and effort to create, affirming that there is indeed meaning in life and in one’s creations that can be (and should be) recognized by others. The author’s viewpoint is one of futility, and the result of that futility is the sort of life experiences that, lightly fictionalized, and probably exaggerated to a considerable degree, make up the bulk of this book. It is easy to feel both sympathetic for the author as well as frustrated in her total lack of insight and wisdom. This book could have been much better, but while I must admit that there are some clear ways that I can relate to the author and her book, there are a lot of differences as well.
This book is a large one, and it is divided into a lot of chapters that appear to be connected to each other at times but not in a straightforward fashion. In this book the author presents a version of herself that is portrayed in a way that the reader is supposed to be sympathetic with her struggles with technology, her creepy behavior as a child (and adult), her struggle to understand her pets and to deal with others, and her general awkwardness at dealing with life. Sometimes this awkwardness comes off as extremely creepy, as when she talks about the way that she stalked a middle-aged adult when she was a toddler and stole his things and the guy was falsely accused of being a creeper when the real predator was her. At other times the stories are infuriating, as when she demonstrates her inability to communicate with her now ex-husband in a civil and polite fashion in a quarrel over bananas. There are a great many other stories in here as well, including a bit of a recurring bit over her attempts to refuse to befriend an awkward neighbor girl of hers. It is probably for the best that she claims to be a recluse at present.
What are the problems with solutions? This book is the result of someone who has some self-awareness, at least enough to try to poke fun of herself, but not enough to be wise or insightful, and that middle place is a dangerous one to be. In fact, this book might be compared to the state of someone who understands themselves but not the world, and thus for every win they have they have a loss. The thing is, the author is aware that she does not understand the world, in a passage on awkwardness being the result of not knowing what to do but trying hard and refusing to give up in the face of difficulty and embarrassment. Missing from this view is the idea that one can learn and grow and so not cease to repeat the same errors over and over again. This book, it must be admitted, would not nearly be so funny if it did not have lots of cases where the author refuses to learn and tries to hide the truth from herself and others, but that is a pleasure that could live without. But it is a pleasure that one will get in reading this book.