Hollywood Book Review
Writing like Jack Kerouac and Sam Kinison’s long lost cousin, Dan K. Oh provides a comedic confessional in “The Ugly Guys Club.” A self-described member of the organization, Oh blends writer Kerouac’s stream-of-conscious style with the profane musings of shock comic Kinison. In “On the Road,” Kerouac admitted, “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved…” In “The Ugly Guys Club”, the author explains, “I didn’t possess the alluring sex appeal or self confidence that girls expect to find in a typical single young male.” [pg 237] Often it seems “The Ugly Guys Club” could be subtitled “On the Make.” Yet despite its occasional bursts of anger and even Kinison-level misogyny, the honesty and pathos of this book makes it a compelling read.
Indeed, for me this book is almost a form of outsider art, like those pencil drawings on notebook paper or 100,000 word manuscripts unearthed after the passing of an anonymous hermit. Oh isn’t trying to match literary convention or style, he’s trying to get the reader to feel what he feels, see what he sees. In his depiction of life in Los Angeles, a place many have called the loneliest city in America, he succeeds. Oh plays himself in the book, as a seemingly exaggerated stand-in for his own persona. It’s impossible to know how much is real in books like these –– that’s part of their charm. Still, much of it has the ring of authentic and painful truth, such as when he goes out to dinner with Jeannie, the young woman who has imprisoned him in the dreaded “friend zone.” After she blithely announces her engagement, she’s flabbergasted by his reaction. To Oh her announcement was not just “a regular kind of bombshell –––– no, that came from the MOAB bomb… the mother of all bombs… I had a heartquake.”
Oh’s heart quakes often. It’s a book he describes as “Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy blames God.” While blaming a higher power for the perceived inequality of beauty is fairly fruitless, there’s no question that Oh does more than just blame. He also dreams and schemes. Besides depicting his lack of success with women in Los Angeles, he also describes his similar lack of success earning money to woo women in Los Angeles. As he details the ways he falls for a multi-level marketing scheme and is constantly shorted as a waiter, it’s impossible not to feel compassion for his plight, along with a fair amount of amusement.
Perhaps the pretty people of the population could take some time away from helping the homeless or saving the whales. Surely a date or three with someone less blessed by genetics might do even more to help our troubled planet. Truth is, no matter how attractive a person is, everyone has at least once pursued someone who didn’t share their feelings. For that reason, we can all at one point or another feel like card-carrying members of “The Ugly Guys Club.” This is why I think women, as well as men, will find much to think about, or even laugh about, in Oh’s book.