three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
user_rating: 
0

Essays 

A-How Did You Get This NumberSloane Crosley, a publicist at Vintage Books, turned out a best seller with her first essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake (3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2008). Her latest collection situates Crosley somewhere between David Sedaris and Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw.

The Topic: The devil’s in the details, and Sloane Crosley has made it her life’s work to observe--and to record--the funny, quirky, and even poignant moments in life. In Alaska at a girlfriend’s wedding (while getting a lecture from the groom on the difference between "feces" and "scat"), in Portugal on a whim ("reminiscent of game night at Jean-Paul Sartre’s house"), in the seedier side of Paris, in a taxi in New York City, or in a more introspective moment recalling the crash-and-burn of a relationship, Crosley takes on the mundane and the absurd with equal energy. Throughout, she relates to every 30-something who ever looked back on life and wondered, "How can we not still be rooting for the younger, more naïve versions of ourselves as if they actually exist, playing catch-up in time?"
Riverhead. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781594487590.

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Crosley has been honing her craft since we’ve seen her last, and the hard work shows. Now, she has mastered the precision of novelistic scene-setting deployed by our greatest practitioners of the American sentimental essay, writers such as Gopnik, Sedaris and, yes, even Thurber." Andrea Hoag

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Crosley takes life’s awkward confrontations, fondest memories from childhood and the unexpected, ironic incidents that happen each day, and turns them into wry, witty and sometimes touchingly sentimental observations. Her gift is making even the most insignificant details illuminating and delightful." Carol Memmott

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Like any stand-up comic, she’s eager to conquer us with laughter and wry knowingness. ... But the very abundance of her humor sometimes calls for an edit, a segue, or a rearrangement." Susan Grimm

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"With the nine pieces in Number, Crosley ... proves that she can move into deeper territory and remain funny. ... Where Cake played strictly for laughs, Crosley finds more balance here--she never slips into parody, and she knows how to keep the mood buoyed, even in the moments with pathos." Vikas Turakhia

Newsday 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Though many of the essays are a bit long, Crosley keeps the charm, humor and intelligence dials on high, and strews little narrative mysteries like bread crumbs to keep things moving. ... Every time Crosley goes a little deeper than expected, she surprises us into not only laughing, but caring." Marion Winik

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Crosley is like a tap-dancer, lighthearted and showmanlike, occasionally trite, but capable of surprising you with the reserves of emotion and keen social observation that motivate the performance. ... Askew as her perception of the surface of life is, she tends to be right about the things that matter." Maria Russo

Critical Summary

No doubt about it, Crosley is funny. A Thurber Award finalist, Crosley earned her stripes as a comic writer and a keen observer of the sometimes absurd in life in her debut collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake (an HBO series based on the essays may be in the works). Despite a few overlong pieces and an occasional dud, Crosley avoids the sophomore slump in her new collection, offering wry--and often downright hilarious--takes on all kinds of experiences. What about Crosley’s writing continues to appeal to a wide audience, despite the seemingly narrow scope of her adventures? "Crosley is a kind of anti-adult, refusing to buckle down," notes the Boston Globe, "refusing to accept the way of the world, refusing to stop her bold mockery, from which she herself is not exempt."