THE HARM IN ASKING by Sara Barron

THE HARM IN ASKING

My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race

KIRKUS REVIEW

In her second collection of humorous personal essays (People Are Unappealing, 2009), Barron continues to unpack the minutiae of her life.

A natural comedian with a penchant for making her audience squirm, Barron regularly hosts events for The Moth, a wildly popular organization that features performances in which randomly chosen people take the stage to recount themed, unscripted stories. The author’s writing also possesses that quality; each of the essays in her new collection is told in a voice that resembles an off-the-cuff monologue. In the middle of one piece, for instance, she writes, “First off, let me say…,” and another essay opens with this line: “Although I myself have never married, I know a few women who have.” Her tone is dry, and her pace is fast. She jumps from subject to subject even more frequently than she has romantic partners, some of whom come across as questionable at best. A longtime resident of New York City, she again proves, in her second autobiographical book, that to her, no topic is off-limits, no matter how offensive, gross or unflattering. She mines her parents and brother for material, the highlight of which is her hilarious description of Barron Family Activity Days; relates a post-college period in which she lived in a gay friend’s closet rent-free in exchange for cleaning his apartment; exposes a fling with a female co-worker, to whom she wasn’t attracted, that fizzled awkwardly; and details everything leading up to her “rebellion” of choosing not to get a tattoo. Overall, this collection doesn’t land as well as its predecessor; the shock of her humor doesn’t garner the same level of laughter the second time around, and Barron doesn’t demonstrate growth. Still, for fans of mostly funny, embarrassing-for-everyone-involved confessional essays by a single woman in her mid-30s, these pieces may resonate for their gutsy truthfulness and ceaseless levity.

Colorful but flippant. Hopefully, Barron will expand her range in her next collection.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-307-72070-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2014




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