[An] icy, masterful first short-story collection ... It’s almost uncivilized how precisely Barrodale renders life as a banal grotesquerie in which you have the wherewithal to decide nothing ... It’s this perverse, quotidian heroism that I love. Barrodale’s are a people who do not need to present their epiphanies as having any visible symptoms—it’s enough just to feel changed ... Barrodale elevates anecdotes into art.
All of the stories in this stark and cutting collection grapple with our failure to communicate, and investigate not merely the woeful inefficiency of language itself (although that’s bad enough) but also the inherent impossibility of truly understanding another person’s internal state. The book’s power comes from Barrodale’s ability to distort and project the familiar into something new ... The collection’s best and most exemplary story, 'Night Report,' employs elements of modernity to show how little our communication skills have improved with time ... Barrodale has captured something near to what it feels like to be confined to a human brain.
Each of the stories deals, generally, with thirty-something Americans in bad relationships. Reading about them is like being a friend’s date to a dinner party among her close friends: Everyone sees the stranger in the room but continues the gossip about their lovers, mothers, and prescriptions as if the new arrival understood by default. No effort is made to show the stranger this unfamiliar social world. Ultimately this collection is about how a small slice of people—wealthy, creative types, some writers, some actors, some musicians—deal with one another. The customs and particularities are referenced, rather than described, in a tone that reads like a VICE column (where Barrodale is Fiction Editor and has written extensively) or an episode of Girls ... Much of Barrodale’s prose reads like this: Narrators recount actions, while the senses get left behind ... Barrodale intends You Are Having A Good Time to be ironic and comic. But the comedy is opaque, like the inside jokes at the hypothetical dinner party. The audience can only laugh if they identify.