three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
35-July-Aug-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-I Was Told Thered Be CakeIn her debut collection of essays, Sloane Crosley, the Associate Director of Publicity at Vintage/Anchor Books in New York, shares the ups and downs of her almost 30-something years.

The Topic: In 15 hilarious and touching essays, Sloane tackles her range of life experiences—from her comfortable childhood in White Plains, New York, to her current days as a Manhattan urbanite. In "You On a Stick," an estranged high school friend asks Crosley to be her bridesmaid—but instead of an honor, it becomes a burdensome chore. "Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work Day" looks back on the 1990s computer game "Oregon Trail," in which Crosley would gleefully name a character after her despised algebra teacher and send her to her death. In other stories, Crosley locks herself out of an old and a new Upper West Side apartment all in one day; fails as a volunteer at a butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum; and ruminates on assimilated Judaism and her summers at a Christian summer camp.
Riverhead. 240 pages. $14. ISBN: 159448306X

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Most of us know a Sloane: that smart, sardonic friend who homes in on the ridiculous aspects of any situation and amplifies them to maximum hilarity. … Avoiding the typical pitfalls of autobiographical writing, Crosley doesn’t try to woo readers with sweetness or posturing." Megan Doll

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Self-deprecation, snappy one-liners, and pathos all come together more successfully in ‘The Ursula Cookie,’ about an undermining, brutal boss. … Clearly, Crosley is nosing into David Sedaris territory, milking her personal foibles and family not just for laughs but to make trenchant points about the world she inhabits." Heller McAlpin

Hartford Courant 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Crosley presents herself simultaneously as sympathetic subject and dispassionately examined object, a straddle that leaves plenty of room for ironic humor and not a little sadness. The dashing of hopes and the inevitability of disappointment provides a melancholy undercurrent to the considerable mirth." Carole Goldberg

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Crosley sometimes loses focus, and a few of her essays leisurely venture down too many side trips. But Crosley, with her engaging voice, definitely compiles more hits than misses—a strong showing by a debut essayist of irrepressible spunk." John Marshall

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[The book] is not going to introduce you to any groundbreaking ideas, but it’ll have you laughing, nodding and saying, ‘That’s just so true.’ … You either know exactly what she’s talking about—and then it’s hi-larious—or you’re left standing on the shadier side of an inside joke." Harley Edwards

San Francisco Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"The longer one reads, the more one begins to suspect—as perhaps she does herself—that Crosley might not be very, well, nice. … Throughout it all, there’s the nagging suspicion that when you next encounter Crosley, she might indeed be perched down at the end of the bar—but dishing on you instead." Rachel Elson

Critical Summary

Compared to David Sedaris and Sarah Silverman, Crosley just might be one of the new best self-deprecating voices. Certainly, she knows how to mock herself, her experiences, and others, while examining some serious subjects and granting herself a little humility—all with wit, of course. Many critics cited as standout stories "The Ursula Cookie," about a nightmare publishing job, and "You On a Stick." Reviewers commented that a few of the stories seemed snarky, too clever for their own good, and aimed at the "in crowd" rather than the general populace. Still, if the collection’s a little uneven, it’s always vibrant and engaging. "With her sparkling, fresh voice," concludes the Christian Science Monitor, "Crosley is a talent worth watching—if she doesn’t do herself in with those cigarettes first."