[The following entry was written by Synthesis Weekly columnist Emilie Clark. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ]
I Was Told There’d Be Cake
By Sloane Crosley
I, like everyone else interested in book publishing, journalism, music or theater, have always fantasized about moving to New York City. That’s where it all happens, you know, and I heard if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. I discarded that pipe dream a while back, but NYC still interests me. Which is why I read Gawker on occasion and keep up on the New York literary world though the Internet. I guess it’s inevitable to know a lot about the city and its inhabitants since most media spawns from within its confines. This is a long-winded way of saying that I had some definite preconceptions about New York publicist Sloane Crosley’s debut book.
According to The New York Observer, Sloane Crosley’s path to writing started with a mass e-mail to some friends describing a story that would later become an essay in the book. The story is about how when moving from one apartment to another (three blocks away) she locked herself out of both apartments. It’s a funny story in the book and I’m sure it was a funny e-mail, but that’s not important. What’s important is that one of her friends â€” and therefore e-mail recipient â€” was the editor at The Village Voice and offered to publish a polished-up version of the story. This is essentially how Crosley became famous. And it’s also why I’m having a hard time liking her. I can’t help but wonder how different my life and writing career would be if I were friends with the editor of The Village Voice. But I guess my envy is really neither here nor there.
Now that we’ve whetted your interest, the actual review can be found after the jump…
To be fair, I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a very funny book. Crosley seems like a likable girl and she gets into a lot of bumbling messes, which I think most people can relate to. She’s like Rachel from Friends â€” she has a bit of forced naÃ¯vetÃ© about how privileged her life is, but she seems humble enough that she’s still amiable. Most of the stories are what you’d expect from a book written by a 29 year old. There is the first job story, the new relationships story and plenty of childhood memories. But you won’t find much world-weary wisdom.
In a way, I recognized myself in Crosley in that she’s willing to completely humiliate herself in the name of a good story. A prime example is â€œOne Night Bounce,â€ which discusses her repeated failings in her quest to have a one-night stand. She tries multiple times in the usual places (college, Europe) but can’t ever seem to make it work. In â€œYou on a Stick,â€ the most engaging essay in the collection, she tackles the bridal-industrial complex when she is asked to be a bridesmaid for a friend she hasn’t spoken to since high school. You can commiserate with her position towards the trappings of a wedding, but it’s also clear how her haughtiness can easily hurt her friends’ feelings.
The underlying problem with the collection is that Crosley, even though she’s funny and clever, is not especially interesting. On the cover there is a blurb from Jonathon Lethem comparing her to David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. This blurb was obviously a result of her connections in the publishing world, so there’s that. But the difference between her and Sedaris and Vowell (and Rakoff and Klosterman) is that they are much more interesting people. Sure, everyone loves Sedaris stories because they think â€œOh, I’ve thought that exact same thing!â€ But we never thought that thing; really, we thought something much blander. We love great essayists because their minds are different and better than our own. They have personalities that are probably hard to appreciate in person, but are perfect for comedy. Crosley’s problem is that she’s too nice. Sure she’s funny and it would probably be a gas to spend a night on the town with her, but her personality isn’t forceful enough and her thoughts are never interesting enough to elevate her to the level of the greats.
Maybe I’m being too harsh because in all reality I’m just insanely jealous of her life and connections. But whatever; there’s a pretty good chance she’ll never read this anyway. Gawker doesn’t spend much time deconstructing the goings-on of Chico. Which is probably for the best.