Wednesday, January 28, 2009

She Grows on You - Kind Of

I Was Told There'd Be Cake
Essays by Sloane Crosley

I was not sure what to make of these at first. Initially Sloane Crosley struck me as a self-absorbed, selfish, self-effacing dilettante. Moreover, she uses living in New York City as an excuse for being that way, implying through her many generalizations that everyone there is rude, self-promoting, and self-centered. Since members of my family live there, I know that those generalizations are not true. Also, I think she exaggerates for the purpose of making absurd situations even more so, which is fine, but humor about one night stands or "cutting blow" doesn't do much for me.

Still, there is something likable about Sloane Crosley, almost in spite of herself. She is more likable than she gives herself credit for. This collection of random essays (think Sarah Vowell without the history and not quite as funny) is entertaining (it gets more entertaining the further you read), fast, witty, and in some cases terribly funny. She has one extended description of being a bridesmaid for a childhood friend from whom she grew apart in high school and had not spoken to for ten years when the woman called and asked her to be in the wedding. Somewhere along the way, Sloane found herself promoted to maid of honor, and the whole thing deteriorates from there. This girl was such a bridezilla the essay was almost (but not quite) unbelievable. The story is hilarious, but I could not help but wonder if the former bride read it, and how she felt about being the butt of such a huge joke. However, a case could be made that she had it coming.

There is a sense that underneath all her self-deprecating humor, Sloane Crosley is searching for something. She grew up in an areligious household, which could be part of the issue, but maybe not. Perhaps she does not consciously miss what she never had. There is one essay where she writes about trying to find a place to volunteer - she pokes fun at her own laziness and selfishness, but still seems to want to find some way to contribute. Her brief stint working at the butterfly exhibit at the NYC Museum of Natural History does not fill that need for her. It is hard to put your finger on, but it seems like beneath her brittleness and even crassness, she wants to connect with people (see the essay "The Beauty of Strangers"). One of the primary ways that she does this is with humor - but that same humor can also be a tool to keep people at a distance.

I will pay attention to what happens to Sloane Crosley. She clearly has potential as a writer, even as a humorist, but I think right now she is selling her talent short. Still, there are nuggets of wisdom and maturity in her writing that jump out like pinpoints of light to show the way home. I hope she will follow those lights and truly reach her potential as a writer and human being.

Reverent Reader


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