Human Resources is the first collection of short stories by Josh Goldfaden. Goldfaden used alternating satire and sincerity to examine various attempts at meaning and connection among the people of his stories, from a spoiled circle of pompous writers to discontent girlfriends of sell-out artists, and a modern-day clan of pirates to a well-meaning pair of mutually stalking neighbors. In the first story alone, Goldfaden pokes fun at self-congratulating writers — and their search to capture the meaning of life in a rhyming couplet about the moon or the moral struggles of flapjacks — through the eyes of a confused, recently-graduated au pair who finds more answers than any of these 'poets.' Goldfaden's prose manages to be profound without the pretense, heart-felt without being saccharine or melodramatic, and humorous without resorting to slap-stick or one-liners. His knack for subtlety is impressive, and his stories (although whimsical and very readable) do not wrap up in overly neat packages claiming to have the key to happiness. Instead, each of his main characters stumbles through his or her life, gaining small clues which point toward a greater understanding of life while leaving room for more growth and folly.
I particularly appreciate the satirical nature of this highly entertaining book; pretense is ripped to shreds with vibrant, humorous strokes, pointing out how lost most of his characters are. While many of the main characters look to answer a great question in their lives, their moments of revelation do not answer these questions, but show that these are not the right questions to be asking. His characters do not find the resolution they were seeking, but rather they learn a better way of searching for it. This recurring theme could have become formulaic or ridiculous in the hands of a lesser writer, but Goldfaden manages to keep his stories unique and surprising without sacrificing sincerity or the connectivity of the collected work. Human Resources makes a great read in one marathon sitting or broken in convenient, single-story doses.