Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Did You Get This Number

Stop that eye rolling. Give me a chance to explain—to explain why on earth I have joined the troupe of every clichéd twenty-something New York girl this side of the East River to have picked up Sloane Crosley’s newest book. Sarah, dear, you’re better than that. You just picked up four pieces of what will surely prove to be literary genius at the Strand last weekend, so why pick up such narcissistic candy to further confirm your choices, your ego, and your self indulgent lifestyle? Come on.

I know.

I know, I know, I know. Here's the thing. I try to keep this bloggy snappy. I fill it with the things I like, and leave the things that I don’t like for the birds. But lately, New York, I’ve been more disappointed than not. There seems to be less-to-fall-in-love-with these days. Like the oil spill. And Bradley Whitford’s new mustache. And Sex and the City 2.

More immediately, there is my broken cell phone. And the fact that Best Buy doesn’t sell radios and that every salesperson pointed me toward the iPod docks instead of radios furthering my liberal-arts-induced-depression that things like radios don’t really exist anymore. And that Chase Bank ate my entire paycheck with their tricky check deposit machines and a vague promise of perhaps locating it ‘in the morning’. And that Greg, my darling hair stylist, moved my hair appointment from Union Square to Soho without my knowledge, as, oh, my cell phone was dead as a doornail and I missed his text. And that I had a looming five hour hair appointment ahead of me WITHOUT MY DROID for distraction.

So... my point. I eventually found my way back down in Soho, and as I waited for Greg to finish up a mohawk on the uncomfortable looking young patron before me, and without a Droid to turn to, I opened up the first mindless magazine found on the sticky coffee table to an interview with Sloane Crosley on the release of her new book and subsequent HBO series. Huh, I thought as I noted the June 15th release date. That could help.

So with a flick of my frizzy red mane, ‘Greg, I’ll be back in five minutes!’ I dashed to McNally Jackson to pick up a (hardcover!) copy (at full retail value!) of Crosley’s latest collection of self indulgent essays, ‘How Did You Get This Number?,’ smartly dressed in Jill Greenberg’s book cover photograph of a crying bear. I love Jill Greenberg! And even if my sisters and my friends and my twitter account were completely unreachable without a cell phone, I knew that Sloane Crosley would understand my first-world-woes.

Well, five hours, four iced coffees, a one overpriced, shiny, straight, frizz-free head of red hair later, I had not only proven that a book is a FANTASTIC way to avoid small talk at the barber's, but reading an other's problems does help dilute yours a bit. That, and that books can be friends. I mean it.

People, this book is good, I'll just admit that right out. It's an incredibly quick read-- it can be read start to finish in one Keratin Treatment, one subway ride, and two glasses of wine, to be exact. It's the type of contemporary prose that you can settle into like a good conversation. You drink it, more than read it-- a trickery that works wonders on the blogging generation who can actually get away with writing like they talk.

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 struggles with spacial relations, is always a bridesmaid, and befriended a black market dealer to scratch a high-end-furniture itch. She mocks New York tourists yet traveled to Europe alone and is brave enough to admit that she was lonely and hated it. She isn't unique... at all. She is every bright-eyed-bushy-tailed good girl to enter Gotham City in hopes of becoming less so. (Then fails miserably-- and there, dear reader, is your story.)

What was it that Joan Didion once said about keeping terms with our past selves? Or else they will show up at 4am and scare us to death? (Found it: "we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends."- Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem) Well, her past self seems to be Crosley's jumping point, and the confrontation her life raft. NOT THAT CROSLEY SHOULD BE COMPARED TO DIDION. But, I mean, she is a twenty-something New Yorker with a book of essays on the city itself. A comparision must be made.

Crosley takes her bittersweet time getting through these seven essays, Mike Birbiglia style. She is self deprecating in tone while retaining an optimistic and somewhat heartfelt outlook. It's smart and sardonic; witty and honest. 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 gut laugh. Her first book, 'I Was Told There'd Be Cake' (great title.) was the result of an email she wrote on her account of getting locked out of the same apartment twice in one day. Lucky girl.

Its smart because of the telling, not the situation. Again, she is so incredibly normal. Yet that normalcy is her main source of contention. Its brilliant. And in a world dredged in oil, filled to the brim with saccarine champagne bubbles who will settle for Louboutins in place of smart emotion, Crosley is actually a nice departure. While her sarcasm is easily felt, it is matched note for note with real heartpouring as she watches a bear cub being shot in Alaska and deals with the aftermath of a boyfriend who ended up having a girlfriend all along. It hurts. Physically, it hurts. But we laugh with her and empathize with her and are able to then look at our own woes and sorrows with real perspective.

In the end, she isn't Joan Didion, but she isn't Carrie Bradshaw either and thank goodness for that. She is a sign of the New New York and, people, it could be worse. Now excuse me while I take my shiny hair down to Verizon Wireless to confront this city as I see fit.


Meghan Pasicznyk said...

may i borrow, please? can you bring it to new jersey next week?

can't wait to see your hair in person :)

Sarah said...

totally! i'd love to get some use out of this full priced hardcover!

we can talk about it over blizzards (with extra candy.)

Gail said...

Sounds like you took a "Horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day" and made it work out! What is with your phone?

Megan said...

Wait, since when is it not cool to like Sloane Crosby?

Mach1 said...

Here's my defense of reading books that don't get respect: "I try to be well-rounded, and part of being well-rounded is being conversant in pop culture."

I don't know if you enjoy being snotty like I do, but if you do - damn. Bust that one out and feel the superiority course through your veins.

Tim said...

Sloane Crosley just seems tired and vain. After being worn out with David Sedaris prose, Crosley is more of the same, but with less personality.