Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Was Told There'd be Cake

'Being a New Yorker, I tend to instinctively value my belongings over my own life. I would never, say, liquor up my grandmother's china vase and send it by itself down Avenue D trying to hail a cab at 3 a.m.'
-Sloane Crosley
I was recently scolded for reading this book again when I have a stack of highly recommended novels, biographies, and non-fiction brilliance sitting next to my bed, waiting to be loved. 'Get some culture in your life,' scolded Al, who lent me White Tiger, one of the novels glaring at me as I write this. 'Read about something other than your own experience.'

She's a smartie, that Alison, and I really should listen. Because she's right... this book is about my life, about our lives... all of the young, bright-eyed, bushy tailed, twentysomething New York working girls who value our uniqueness. I'm a narcissist for loving it, fine. I'm gaining very little of cultural significance and learning nothing new. But Crosley's prose makes laugh like no other and getting into her world helps me take mine much less seriously. This is the third time I've read this book. And I kind of want to read it again.

I rarely laugh out loud when I'm reading, but I did so multiple times during my virginal read-through. I remember sitting at a coffee shop in the West Village laughing inappropriately over my latte and toast, knowing that I had a secret that they didn't. I had discovered this book before anyone else really gave it the time of day. I didn't want to get exit the train, go to sleep, or get off the treadmill... I just couldn't put this book down, as cliche as that makes me sound. I loved it.

Therefore, I all but forced each of my friends pick up a copy or borrow my own and smugly waited for their own reviews. I had discovered a true gem and I knew that they would very shortly be praising my recommendation. 'Sarah, you have the BEST taste, this book changed my life. How in the world did you find it? We will value your opinion forever and we want to crown you queen of the literary world.' Well, that was what I WANTED them to say... how I expected them to react. And with a flip of my hair I would gracefully shrug off their praises, channelling Violet in It's a Wonderful Life... 'Oh this old rag? Why, I only put in on when I don't care how I look.' However... as happens more often that not, my fantasy was proven very false. I was wrong. Most of my dearest friends gave this book a mere 'Meh. It was okay.'

Katie didn't think it was that funny, Alison thought it should have been a blog and nothing more. Lauren thought her writing style was tired, and the other Allison never got through it. 'That's it!?' I fired, 'What about the part when she talks about her parent's fascination with fire!? What about the butterfly exhibit essay... didn't you just die when she explained her need to volunteer?! Did you READ the part about her friend's wedding!?' I was shocked. So here I am, once again, telling the world (or my 20 followers) that this book is amazing and you have to read it. A few times.

Sloane Crosley grew up in Westchester County, went to a small liberal arts school where she studied English, and moved to New York to work in publishing upon graduation. She worked at Bebe in high school, and had various internships during college. She went to sleep away camp and traveled Europe with a friend. She lives in a studio on the Upper West Side and had a horrific first boss. She isn't unique... at all. And that's why its funny.

Crosley takes her bittersweet time getting through these fifteen essays, Mike Birbiglia style. She is self deprecating in tone while retaining an idealistic outlook. It's smart and sardonic. She is the girl that you want to have at a dinner party because she knows how to tell a story, how to narrate her way into a very funny situation. This book was actually the result of an email she wrote on her account of getting locked out of the same apartment twice in one day. Its smart because of the telling, not the situation. Again, she is so incredibly normal. And that normalcy is her main source of contention. Its brilliant. And I only wish I would have thought of it first.


La said...

I loved that book....also laughed out loud when reading it. I also read an entire chapter out loud to my friend Lesley on a road trip. It was the first book I read after I got glasses, which made it that much better.

David Henly said...

got it from the library. will fit it in between Perrotta's Joe College (loved the Abstinence Teacher - the poker party was my favorite part!) and Right Livelihoods - Rick Moody's 3 novellas.
Katie got a job!!
Did you get to listen to our show The Long Way Home?