on 20 September 2010
In her first book, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," 20-something Sloane Crosley introduced herself as a suburban girl new to the big city. Childhood and college were fresh in her mind, and her deft wit and unique writing style had an authenticity Carrie Bradshaw couldn't match.
Two years later, about to turn 30 as the book opens, life has moved on. This time, she comes to terms with the realities of adulthood and all the responsibilities and experiences that go with it.
It's immediately clear that the tone of the two books is very different. The first regarded the gluing of a flatmate's toothbrush to the ceiling as a reassurance that those carefree days of adolescence could last for ever. The second sees Sloane more troubled by a new anorexic kleptomaniac rent sharer - so much so that the idea of living in a defunct historic brothel becomes appealing.
Having learned previously of her parents' loose interpretation of religion, and plenty of her `early years' stories; this volume gives the feeling that Sloane wishes to somehow make sense of them. Her introduction both castigates and begs forgiveness of her parents, while one of the better essays - on meeting a former schoolmate in a ladies' restroom - both questions and reassures her of her new place in the world.
This is what Sloane seems to be searching for most. Travel is one of the strongest themes, and we encounter several of her early life issues along the way. It is small wonder she appears unsure of what she is seeking, with her inbuilt `directional dysfunction disorder' to contend with. A note to her editor at this point - the opening meander through Lisbon would have made more sense (and had greater charm) if this last had been explained here, rather than waiting until the next story.
Pace is a slight problem with the early part of the book. The best trademark Sloane witticisms, observations and stories happen from around the half way mark. Freely admitting that some events probably didn't actually occur, the squirrel episode is but one hilarious moment that you hope was true but probably wasn't (I'm sure I read it elsewhere on the web, anyway, even if not so well told.) Later, you also sense that her `Lorry Friend' probably didn't exist either - but it makes a good tale all the same.
For a reader ten years older, of a different gender and nationality, the appeal of Crosley's work remains as an intimate insight into how a younger generation think, act and interpret the world. Her attitude to life, contrasting morality and general non-conformity continue to provide a refreshing read. The wise-cracks could maybe have been spread a little thicker in some chapters and tightened in others, but by the end the reader is right there wanting to pick her up when her life reaches a low.
Even if sometimes the `Fawlty Towers' line, "There's enough material there for a conference" crossed this reader's mind, Sloane Crosley should be reassured that in her 7 year residency she remains one of the brighter cookies in the jar that is New York City, and a third volume would be welcome.
You know what made me read Sloane Crosley's first book (which is called "I was told there'd be cake" and is, ultimately, much better than this one)? One of the glossy magazines referred to her as the new Carrier Bradshaw. Funny, sexy, and now a New Yorker.
There is nothing much I can say about this book, which I finished today (one of my friends gave up after the first two essays). I would not recommend it as a book by a comedian or by a woman with a gorgeous sense of humour you can relate to. I don't think there are many people out there who would like to live in a house haunted by ghosts of suicidal prostitutes, or tell sad (almost verging on cruelty) stories about pet animals, or blow up a big deal out of the usage of tampons or pepper sprays. It might all sound good in Ms Crosley's mind, but not so exciting on the paper. The truly worth-reading essay is called "Light Pollution" (published in the Vice magazine some time ago), about the State of Alaska, which made me want to go and see it for myself even more than I wanted to before. But maybe it's just me.
Maybe you will enjoy this book of, in my opinion, quite unsatisfactory collection of stories, which might have had a potential were they not so badly administered by Ms Crosley's language. It seems that she is much too proud of her vocabulary and tends to construct sentences bursting with words that you never hoped to see within one paragraph. The sentences themselves are too long to grasp for a book which is, let's face it, no Booker prize, but merely a beach holiday read. This book is trying hard to be a sophisticated beach read. So sophisticated, that by the time you finish the sentence (that feels as long as a paragraph), you are not quite sure what the storyteller tried to tell us and, frankly, was it worth the effort?
Just when I was about to give up and braced myself for the last essay, not surprisingly called "Off the back of the truck", Sloane pulled a trick I haven't seen before. The story is not about furniture. The story is about relationships, deluded relationships and, to be more precise, break-ups. We have all been through at least one, but I haven't read a story so heartbreakingly real in describing all the break-up cycles you agonize through, all those questions, all those "time heals" mantras. That essay is one amazingly written piece of work of a broken heart. Brava, girl!
Maybe you will find your own gem in this collection of stories. Maybe you will love the book. Good luck. I was left a bit disappointed.
on 19 August 2010
A great funny sharp book that is easily digested as is in essay form - so great for the commute, or (like me) between dealing with the kids!
Sharp observations about living in New York which are easily translatable to any urban single living experience.
I also read 'I was told there'd be cake' which is the same - equally enjoyable, buy both!
on 22 November 2011
'"Some people are just so blasé about everything," Sang sighed.
I said that yes, I had heard of such a person.'
This is a retread. Alarn bells ring when she moves out of her NYC (dis)comfort zone, and when she has an Englishman, elderly at that, say to his wife 'Just do it, Joan' I felt like chucking the book across the room. At least he didn't say 'Deal with it'. Great title though