‘The Harm in Asking’ book review
By Joshua Grant, Senior Columnist
The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race is Sara Barron’s second book of humorous personal essays, following the writer from an awkward childhood spent locked in a bathroom after adopting three (imaginary) teen models to an awkward adulthood hopping between terrible roommates in New York City.
At its best, The Harm in Asking figuratively exposes the author with no thought or act too shameful to reveal, which conveys a sense of utter honesty that’s hard to affect even in personal narrative.
Barron’s self-effacing charm carries the book. In my favourite moments, she indulges in fantasy tangents that are swiftly dismantled by reality. One such episode occurs when, to spice up the relationship, her boyfriend announces big date plans: he’s got two tickets to a “Hot Wing Festival” and two tablets of ecstasy. I won’t go into detail, but the evening goes exactly as you imagine it would. Days later, the narrator lies on her bed and says to herself: “Dear drugs, please stay away from Sara. Dear Sara, you must now stay away from drugs.” In most cases, she handles a life of small disappointments with awkward humour and uncommon candour.
However, Barron can rely a bit heavily on gross-out humour, such as her ability to clear rooms with foul-smelling flatulence. It just feels a bit childish at times. But it also might be the case that I wasn’t the best audience for the book, as a lot of the tension is based on gendered experience as a female.
Gross-outs aside, I’d recommend The Harm in Asking to anyone who wants a David Sedaris-like experience, minus a Y-chromosome plus a bawdy twist. I also wish continued awkwardness on Barron because I would definitely read another book of it.