People Are Unappealing: Even Me smirks at the mishaps and mayhem of author Sara Barron's darkly humorous coming-of-age through stories that are as hideously embarrassing as they are endearingly charming.
The title of this collection of autobiographical stories—about a smart, ambitious, pushing-30 waitress/writer—is a letdown: as acerbic as Sara Barron is, in the end, she’s not nearly unappealing enough. Winning personality is the last thing I expected from a girl whose opening chapter showcases her self-confessed lust for attention, but her childhood recollections of the giant menstrual pad in her swimsuit got me, and the teenage wrist brace from overenthusiastic masturbation kept me there.
Barron has all the earmarks of a grating narrator—the underdeveloped sense of shame, a deadly history of bad acting/singing/dancing escapades, body dysmorphia, impulse-control disorder, hideous romantic entanglements—yet despite myself, I wanted nothing more than to sit at her knee and give her the attention it would normally utterly gratify me to withhold. Like fellow NPR/This American Life humorists, she has a knack for turning humiliating anecdotes into semi-enviable life lessons; while not quite pulling off the deliciously surreal tone David Sedaris achieves in similar tales of loathsome employment and absurd family relations, she has her own distinctive voice. Barron also has a welcome gift for not seeming to want to be liked and not seeming to care if she’s rejected, at least on the printed page—an interesting twist for an innate spotlight hog. The collection ends with a perfectly unappealing story about spending the evening with a certain Chihuahua-totin’ celebutante (transparently disguised by the name Madrid Days Inn) during which Barron succumbs to the sick pull of Fame’s petticoat strings. Here’s hoping she gets all the fame she can handle, herself.