"If we pull the tape of the mugging and what you're saying didn't happen as you've said it, you'll get thrown in jail."
"There could be tape?" I perked up, excited by the idea of catching these guys. "Normally," he said, "a young woman comes in here, held up at gun point, that's a traumatic situation. You don't seem shaken. 25 years of experience tells me that you're lying for some reason."
"You don't need your brains blown out to be held at gunpoint."
"I guess that would have made things easier for everyone," I said, done with this whole business, "because then I wouldn't be able to sit here and lie to you."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I laughed out loud while reading “Up the Down Volcano,” but I was also very conscious of the fact that your experience couldn’t have been funny when you were going through it. Are many of the experiences you write about only funny in retrospect?
SLOANE CROSLEY: Yes. Those generally make for better stories. I think that if you can see the humor while it’s happening – this is cliché – you’re tempted to not live in the moment, or it’s already fermenting into a story in your mind as it’s happening. You start mentally taking notes; that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t come out as funny or a worthwhile story on the other side, but for me personally, it’s more rewarding if there’s something [deeper] going on. Part of me thinks that it’s a defense mechanism that takes the pressure off of just trying to be funny, but most of me thinks that’s where people need humor the most, both as readers and as writers.
There are some social, casual diagnoses we make toward our fellow man that actually have real medical basis behind them but they get bastardized. For instance, if you said someone is “totally an alcoholic,” or “totally an anorexic,” those are things that actually people suffer from. So you almost have to step back and say, “No, I really mean it.” For me, a good example is, “Oh my God, I’m having a panic attack.” A panic attack hits when you’re not panicked – when your body’s actually relaxed enough and it knows that there’s nothing else going on, and now’s the time to unleash the fury. It’s that kind of thing where you think, “Is this actually what’s happening to me right now?” I was working at my old office job, and I was in the middle of talking to somebody in the hallway who was incredibly superior to me, and I was trying to make a good impression. It didn’t help that I thought my heart was going to fly out of my chest.
I’m trying to figure out if I mean what I’m about to say – I think I do: I can’t think of one really bad thing I’ve ever heard of where there isn’t some sort of humorous art form that has come out of it. It’s not always successful: Life Is Beautiful is the biggest piece of trash ever and should be burned. [Laughs] However, there’s some pretty funny stuff. If you read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, there’s weirdly a lot of humor in that he can only blink with one eye. What that man went through is, to my mind, one of the heights of individual human suffering. There’s a lot more mass suffering, but I’m just trying to give an extreme example. Even in something much more everyday — like a trip up a mountain everyone climbs — there’s something. Even in the two days since this essay has come out, friends are like, “Oh, I’ve climbed Cotapaxi.” It’s a little insane but not totally unheard of. The more common it is, the more you’re going to be able to derive some kind of humor from it.
I can’t see the forest through the trees, except the trees are people. You have to get in certain situations to begin with — leave the house. I have a disproportionate amount of faith in the goodness of the world and that everything will actually work out okay. I had an author I worked with at Vintage who pointed out to me, “Now everything in your life falls into one of two categories: It’s either a fine experience and it all works out, or it doesn’t and it makes a good story.”
It’s so funny how my personal loyalties fluctuate a little bit, being a company girl for so long. I truly adore Knopf — I think it’s amazing, but my first job was for a literary agent, so back then, it was like we were defending the author against the big bad publishing house. Then I get to the publishing house, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, don’t any of these outside forces realize what we’re up against trying to produce good books?” [Laughs] Then I leave, and suddenly, Amazon creating its own publishing program doesn’t quite seem like the end of the world anymore. Also, it’s the timing of it that makes it totally okay for everyone. I don’t have a book coming out in the next six months where this is going to interfere. It’s all good for everyone, so that was part of my reason for doing it.
I had written this essay not just for fun – I thought it’d eventually go into a future essay collection. Then it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and as it did, I thought, it doesn’t fit anywhere now. I can’t get it through the doorway – awkward! [Laughs] David Blum at Amazon told me more about the program and the kinds of things they publish and why. You don’t want something to be unedited, but there’s a difference between chopping of 2000 words and chopping off 6000 words.
Having published the two books of essays, you’re not supposed to pick favorites amongst your children, but I say if I were to have 24 children, I’d sure as shit have favorites. [Laughs] You know in Arrested Development, Lucille defends herself saying, “Don’t be ridiculous. I love all my children equally.” Then it shows her earlier that day holding a martini at lunch and saying, “I don’t particularly care for Job.” [Laughs] I feel like that about the essays. But I could sense this one being one of the “big ones” for lack of a better term.
I did! And it was one that I didn’t really want to write, which was funny. There’s always the one that feels different for me, and it’s always interesting in terms of response from readers and reviewers — how they feel about the two or three that always feel different. Sometimes it’s the pies de resistance, and then sometimes they say, “This is her one misstep — it doesn’t make sense.” I used to tell my authors, “As long as it’s a mix.” You know you’re in trouble when everyone finds the same problem, be it Us Weekly or the New York Review of Books. If they have the same issue, it’s probably there. [Laughs]
I do! It’s funny that you mention this: Authors price the Singles themselves. You don’t want to flatter yourself too much, and I think also, both for my audience and my kind of readership, I very much liked that the price of it really is the same as a new song on iTunes. I’m not sure if I really thought of it that consciously, but I think that was in the back of my head a little bit. I mean, it’s got a lot more words than any song in the history of man. [Laughs] I can say that with confidence. Even if we dig up some 17th century Austrian choir piece. In that way, the bang for your buck is pretty good. I also like the idea of telling readers, “Hey, here’s the direction I’m going,” although it doesn’t mean that I’m going to do a book where I climb every single mountain in the world.
You quit your day job as a book publicist last year, but you have so much going on: developing your HBO show, writing books, writing articles … what does your average day look like when you’re not traveling?
I’m standing here in my apartment looking at a half-eaten plate of cheese — I’m trying to find a way to put a good spin on this [laughs]. I tend to write in the morning. I have certain rules that I’ve established for myself that took a while post-day job to figure out. Everyone says people who freelance or are writers struggle with the structure of it. I’m not allowed to check email before a certain hour. I’m not allowed to run errands during the day. I have to write a certain amount every day. You start thinking of your life as this giant kitty, and you’re just contributing to it. My blueprint is so much the nine-to-five or nine-to-nine job that I don’t take enough advantage of the fact that I can do anything with my time. The fact that I can be up at 4 and asleep at 11 doesn’t do it for me. [Laughs] You start feeling very strange.
I loved the essay “The Ursula Cookie” from your first collection in which you talk about your bad first job, and your struggle to break into publishing. Is your current reality the dream your early-20s self envisioned for herself?
No. [Laughs] Let me put it this way: I don’t feel as settled as I look. I think that’s true of everyone, probably. Except for Beyonce and Jay-Z. I don’t think they wake up and think, “Ugh, when’s it going to work out for us? Why can’t we catch a break?” Aside from them, I’m pretty sure everyone’s life feels a lot less intentional. I just interviewed Joan Didion at the Public Library, and I asked her, “When did this all stop feeling like an accident?” She talks about in After Henry, which is one of her later essay collections. Henry Robbins comes out to California and visits with her and John, and she feels a little bit self-conscious that he kept talking as if she were a real writer, and she felt the need to go along with it. I saw that and asked her, “When did that stop?” And she said it all feels like an accident. I don’t think there’s a moment where you start thinking, “Well, now this is my career.”
Rumpus: “Where babies come from”?
rosley: Yes, because there’s an answer to that. A singular one. It’s not like, oh, they come from someplace different. Some people get them from the store—Gummy-bear babies—and some people get them from sex, you know? So in a way, that’s the answer to your question about what I write: Gummy bears and sex—because this stuff comes from someplace different every time. Sometimes you have a broad theme in mind, and you hone it in. And sometimes it’s a random funny story you expand upon. I mean, if you told me to write an essay about absolutely anything right now, I’m not sure what I’d write about.
Rumpus: Well, if your first two books are any indication, it’ll probably come from somewhere in your autobiographical past, right? As opposed to something about, say, Goethe.
Crosley: That one’s on the docket! But yeah, that’s not exactly true. I just finished writing a piece for Playboy about mohelim, the rabbis who chop the foreskin off the babies, interviewing a ton of them, researching bris culture, figuring out what clamps they use—and that’s certainly not my own life, because I don’t have a penis and it’s never been chopped. But you’re right, I do mine my own life a lot, but then everyone does. You have to have some connection to what you’re writing about, I think. It’s really hard to get away with stream-of-consciousness ruminations about miscellaneous topics without knowing what you’re talking about.
Rumpus: You’ve been attracted to the form of the humorous personal essay, like David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris.
Crosley: David Rakoff. All the Davids. It’s funny, the Jonathans take over fiction and the Davids take over nonfiction. What’s up with that? That would be great if that was your question—why don’t you end every question with “What’s up with that?”
Rumpus: Yeah. OK. What’s up with that—that form, the humorous personal essay?
Crosley: I just started writing this thing. It’s really about two different people, and that was hard, because on the one hand the facts of the case are this one person, but I’d forgotten how that relationship felt—I had no emotion about that. I remember it being bad. I just didn’t remember how it was bad. And one of the first things I wrote in that essay was the line equating the brain to any other organ in the body. If you’re kind and healing to it, it will be kind and healing to you: it’ll do you a solid. But when it came time to writing about what happened, how do you dig up the memories you threw out? I got around that by applying what I felt about a more recent heartbreak—there really have been two big ones—and so that was an extraordinarily difficult essay to write. Imagine taking the two worst romantic slights you’ve had in your life and combining them into this one two-headed monster. Now think about it constantly like your book depends on it. Because it does. It’s a lot like The Incredible Hulk.
Rumpus: Like The Incredible Hulk?
Crosley: This is what happens when you write a funny book when you’re a little more than casually depressed, I guess. This is what comes out: Round 2. I think some people are disappointed by this book, to be frank.
Rumpus: What? Why?
Crosley: Larry David is another David! A hidden David.
Rumpus: Now it’s like The Gossip Girl generation, and nobody seems to be saying anything important about that.
Crosley: Yes. My senior year of high school, there was this girl named Leah. We were kind of friends in high school. We weren’t great-great friends, but we were both chatty enough to be like “are you on AOL Instant Messenger? I am too!” And I remember typing to her the next day how weird it was that we had this alternative life, this disconnected conversation. Then I went to a small school for college and—I wonder if they still have this—there was a list you could check to see who else was online at six in the morning, and it would only be a few people. We were still learning how to use all that email stuff to inform our romantic relationships. It wasn’t supplementary to human relationships. It was completely separate. Then it went through a phase of being supplementary to human relationships, and now the majority of our relationships with people are online or via text messages. And then after my generation, I don’t know. There were a lot of people named Cindi.
Rumpus: After us?
Crosley: Yeah, but that’s just wanting fame. That’s nothing new. But I do think we’re more obsessed with nostalgia because of all this stuff. Honestly, if whatever you want to do with your life is ingrained in your personality enough, the latest technological fad is not going to affect it. Not at all. If you feel that being on Twitter is going to encroach upon what you’re going to write, then whatever you’re writing is probably pretty weak and not of huge value. I believe in distraction. I’m distracted right now but it’s not the Internet’s fault. It’s like saying looking at real-estate porn all day is affecting my ability to be an architect. I mean, it’s distracting as hell, but so are a lot of things. TV is distracting, living in New York is distracting, flowers are distracting. Look at the birdie out my window. I didn’t have the Internet at home for a long time, but now I do. And it’s really distracting and sometimes I want to punch it but my computer was really expensive.
Rumpus: As long as you don’t spend all day Googling yourself.
Crosley: I guess that’s better than spending all day douching yourself. Or is it the same thing? How does a douche work anyway? Clears everything out? I should Google that.
Sloane Crosley Columns For “The Independent”
There is a way to do it well. Or so I'm told. When it comes to formal photographs, I have two faces: 1) embarrassed, self-deprecating and scrunched up to the point where I'm blind and 2) you just drowned my hamster and I'm pretty pissed about it. This involves a slackening of the jaw and relaxing of all my cheek muscles in an attempt to look like a "supermodel," although the effect is a closer to "coma patient." Apparently having my picture taken also turns me rude: I have been known to inform a photographer that I would prefer to have a root canal.
Admittedly, I am a passive participant in skincare regimens and an even more passive participant in make-up. But when faced with the option of a face cream that promises to make me look 28 instead of 32? Sure, fine, I'll pay for that one instead. And if I didn't flinch each time I approached my tear duct with a pencil, I'd probably use one everyday. I would love to tell you that this column is barrelling forth towards an experiment in which I go without lip moisturiser for a week or a revelation that none of it really matters and it's what's inside that counts. But it won't. Not being a moron, I already know it's what's inside that counts. And being a realist, I also know there's no way I'm leaving the house with nothing on my skin. Sorry. Hence the bad performance art.
Insomniacs tend to fall into two general categories – those who give up and those who don't. I don't. I refuse to admit defeat by turning on the light. I will not try to read or watch a movie, thank you. Productivity is a crutch of the weak. I will lie there as long as it takes, waiting for the birds and the light and sound of garbage trucks on the street below. Alas, my resolve has failed me tonight. Some time ago, I left my bed, turned on my computer, which makes a sound that's almost like the "Fasten your seatbelt" sound on an aeroplane. Almost.
A moderately intelligent woman, who fits easily through the average hallway, announces she is going on a juice cleanse? I don't think so. And after viewing YouTube videos of people with crazy eyes who had undergone a 40-day Master Cleanse (cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon), the whole idea seemed unrealistic and unhealthy to me as well. So I opted for the most sane option I could find: the Blueprint Cleanse. In this plan, the cleansee drinks six different kinds of juice in an assigned order throughout the day. Really, I chose Blueprint because the company had the most appealing language on its website. Instead of encouraging me to graduate from a vegan to wheatgrass-only diet, it recognised the good chance that I'd been consuming pasta and martinis the night before. And as turned off as I was by beet juice, what really sold me was the inclusion of cashew milk, already a favourite of mine.
There are endless reasons to take off ones glasses during the day and as I have grown older, what I don't see has become increasingly pronounced. If I go into a sandwich shop or anywhere that features "Today's specials" on a chalkboard more than 10 feet away, I have to ask for a printed menu. I smile at people I don't know on the street and ignore those I do. When at home, I often find myself grabbing my "back-up" glasses to search for the better-loved pair I have left on top of my dresser. Recently, I visited the eye doctor in the hope of being told I need stronger spectacles. "Your prescription is correct," the doctor let me down, "your sight hasn't gotten worse since your last visit."
From there, I draw out a smooth line towards the end of the nail before I cycle back around and chew off the rest. And once it begins, I can't very well let the rest of my nails go unattended. What am I supposed to do? Walk around with one long pinkie nail like a drug addict from the 1980s? I don't think so. I am literally biting my nails as I write this. Difficult? Yes. Unappetising? Certainly. But a fitting goodbye to a 15-year-old habit. While not as dramatically incongruous as a midriff tattoo on a septuagenarian, I do find it difficult to imagine myself as the kind of woman I hope to become while casually picking at my nails in public and then carefully examining my fingers between bites as if proudly surveying the damage.
But here's the thing – for weeks, it's been quiet. Too quiet. Each evening I put my key in my lock and turn the knob, praying to see no bright light and hear no loud, bass-heavy music from the window across the way. I realise it's just asking for trouble to write this, but – they've gone silent. Maybe they are trapped under some very weighty pieces of furniture. (A girl can dream.) Yet noise or no noise, the potential for major disturbance is all I think about when I come home at night. This week, though, I have finally started to let go and allow myself to hope for a world in which I can leave my bedroom window open, and not Google "wire cutters" and "industrial ear plugs" the next morning. Fingers crossed. A box of 500 toothpicks is remarkably cheap but a good night's sleep is priceless.
Now, an airline will reimburse you for reasonable charges accrued when they've accidentally thrown your bag into the ocean, say. But the form-filling is as much of a pain as you suspect it would be. Plus, they finally called to inform me that my possessions had been located and were on their way back to me. I decided to tough it out. The combination of having no choice and a distinct circumstance on which to blame my slovenliness granted me a kind of freedom. I wandered around unconcerned with my appearance, washing my face with Dial soap (it's a cheap handwash) and putting lip balm on my elbows. When my luggage finally appeared, I found myself running late for dinner. I had five minutes and a choice. I left my suitcase in the hallway and ran scruffily out the door. No one needed to know I had it back yet.
I also used to take a nostalgia trip to the lobby of the building where I had my first job. I'd walk in, reminisce, inhale, think of how far I've come, slam into someone mid-reverie and spill coffee all over myself, etc, so forth. Now I can't get past the front door without an electronic key card and two valid forms of identification. I get it. It's not merely privacy, but security, and those are different things. But you know what? I would swap wandering through an ex-boyfriend's photo album for wandering through that lobby, any day.
3. You are standing outside a church on a Sunday morning and the house is the house of God.
"Would you like to come inside and pray?" she asked.
"Oh, no thank you. I'm –"
"God will save you," she patted me on the shoulder and kept walking.
Probably not, I thought, not unless God has a car and a GPS. Though when I located my cab driver, he did have a large rosary dangling from the rear-view mirror. So what do I know?
As I left the restaurant, I felt myself thinking, "Oh, these Manhattan kids!". Then it occurred to me: I don't think that's what actually bothers me about seeing kids playing at being adults. It's not that they grow up so fast. They don't. But if we spend our childhoods trying to grow up, and our adulthood nostalgic for our youth, when do we just get to be? Surely there must be an exact halfway point. I'm thinking it's 18 in the UK and 21 in America. Because you could be drinking to forget the past, or to toast the future and no one particularly cares. All that matters is that you're meant to be here.
No matter what, I would not be getting on a plane. I knew the pain would eventually subside. But this extra cochlear kick was all I needed to solidify my fear of flying. Now I could put aside all mental hysterics, all wimpy reasoning, and blame my nerves on a concrete problem: I had sensitive ear issues. It was a perverse relief. I have never been frightened of plane explosions. Air travel is the safest form of travel aside from walking; even then, the chances of being hit by a public bus at 30,000 feet are remarkably slim. I also have no problem with confined spaces. Or heights. What I am afraid of is speed. I have a visceral distaste for rollercoasters for the same reason. If you'd like to see me vibrate with petrifaction, put me on a queue for one.
For years, I would print out directions and party invites before leaving the office. I never once got an address wrong. I always knew whose birthday it was and when the festivities began. I was the last person in America under 50 still dialling 411 for restaurant numbers and store hours and so found myself having to be excessively patient and well-pronounced at least three times a week. I never travelled with a laptop and thus never held up airport security queues by forgetting I had it on my person. I responded to e-mails in a timely fashion because I had no choice. It was either that, or stay in the office and be serenaded by the dulcet sounds of industrial carpet vacuums.
Penis. Penis! PENIS!! That's how the game is played, right? Whoever can shout it the loudest without caving to embarrassment wins. Oh, but who needs a larynx when you have a cell phone? More to the point, when you have Brett Favre's cell phone. To Favre's credit, it's not as if the man invented naughty-picture messaging two years ago when he reportedly sent then 24-year-old Playboy model and Jets game-day hostess Jenn Sterger shots of his junk. He may have been the longest in the tooth to do this, but let us not forget the Cleveland Indians' aptly named Grady Sizemore or the Portland Trail Blazers' Greg Oden and his formidable anatomy, which he clearly rented from Equine 'n' Things. Fame aside, the question is—okay, so there are a lot of questions—but the first one is: How can men be so clueless? What, exactly, do they think is going to happen?
"It's a guitar."
"Since when do you own a guitar?"
"I don't," she said. "My roommate does."
Typical girl, she had taken the time to compose the entire shot. It had finesse. It also had low-grade psychosis. But if you put that aside, there is something to be learned from a woman like this. As a group, we don't respond so well to sloppy. So what's a guy to do when the urge to strip and click takes over? Put in a little effort.
The drum of horror holds her sound,
Which will not let me sleep,
When ghastly breezes float around,
And hidden goblins creep.
—George Moses Horton,
“The Fearful Traveler in the Haunted Castle”
All holidays are measured by varying degrees of stress but New Year’s takes that stress and whittles it down to a single second. Thus we throw money, confetti, booze, anything we can think of at the problem. When that fails, we drop a 1,000-pound ball on it. And Halloween in the city — that otherwise harmless children’s holiday with its adorably occult roots — was weaned on New Year’s. People living in New York don’t need to let loose on Halloween — their psyches are already pretty unstructured on an average Tuesday. These sister holidays mark the beginning and the end of the holiday season in New York, with the former increasingly taking its cue from the latter. Streets are shut down for Halloween, costumes are purchased, masks abound, it’s impossible to get a cab, and people seem legitimately concerned about their whereabouts weeks in advance. Not surprisingly, there has been a conspicuous increase in moaning about “getting out of the city” for Halloween. To be so irked by a holiday that one has to check out of it all together was the one wall separating Halloween from New Year’s. That wall is crumbing. New Yorkers have long responded to New Year’s as if a cinematic plague is about to descend and it’s time to a) leave or b) stock up on batteries/water/the-complete-first-season-of-everything.
Beyond dressing-up, it’s that creeping pressure to do something insanely fun for Halloween. This is a trickle-back attitude from New Year’s. What a smack in the face of fun. Other holidays don’t have this problem. The words “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” invoke turkey, familial dysfunction and airport security. It’s a sincere question, not a fishing expedition. Never has someone said “I’m going to my aunt Hilda’s house in Wooster” and been met with a “That sounds great. When are we leaving?” No one covets your plans, no one wonders what you’re going as this year, no one comes up to you with a straight face and tells you the stuffing is brains and the cranberry sauce is blood. Having grown up just outside the city, I used to envy the thrilling lives of “city kids.” City kids scored higher than us in both the common sense department and the cultural sense department. They were over everything by the age of 5, which left them free to spend the rest of their lives sneaking into dark bars to see bands I wouldn’t hear for another two years. But the fantasy stopped at Halloween. I am a sucker for a well-carved jack-o’-lantern and the smell of leaves underfoot. Thus I found their stories of trick-or-treating via elevator vaguely depressing. Not anymore. Now it just seems convenient, an effective candy distribution system. I long for a house party safe from the vomiting hobgoblins of Times Square.
People who leave New York often claim they were driven away by a superficial but gnawing sense of incompleteness. Everyone is always grasping for a better job, a cooler neighborhood, a bigger and better apartment. There’s a palpable lack of contentment in the air. Which isn’t to say that New Yorkers are unhappy. We’re just happiest not being content. I have a recurring dream that I open my closet and find an uninhabited, rent-free apartment connected to my own. In no other arena is this more pronounced than real estate. Renting or buying, it doesn’t matter. Our envy is greater than the difference. For such an intellectually advanced and culturally diverse population, we sure are easily impressed with dishwashers. It should be noted that I have a dishwasher in my new apartment. It’s completely broken. But so ingrained is my dishwasher adoration, just the idea of having one is a little bit thrilling. But why is real estate envy so detailed and so pronounced in New York? It’s not as if we’re the highest-earning city in the country — that would be Washington. And last I checked we too lived in the middle of an economic collapse largely tipped off by none other than real estate herself.
There is no such thing as a crazy dog person in New York. Are there people who are completely insane about their dogs? Hordes. But cat people may as well have whiskers and tails themselves. That’s because their pets’ lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends. You can’t take them to the cat run. Cats and their owners are on a private, exclusive loop of affection. Thus cats have become symbolic of a community eschewed and a hyper-engagement with oneself. They represent the profound danger of growing so independent in New York that it’s not merely that you don’t need anyone — it’s that you don’t know how to need anyone. The feline lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends.
I am indeed.
It's not a shift if you don't move from where you are. I was a book publicist when the first book came out as well. I don't really know how it works to be honest with you. I just know that I'm a very busy girl who loves books from several angles. And that works for me.
You're asking me to turn into an old cranky grandma here by suggesting this book is bigger and better. You know that whole cliché where you compliment everything on the dinner table but leave something out and she screams: WHAT, SO YOU HATED THE ROLLS?! But yeah, I know what you mean. And I think this one is better too, but please don't let my first-born hear that.
A lot of your early essays are about life in Manhattan, and a lot of these new ones are about places around the world. How does living here prepare you for visiting the rest of the world. Not prepare you? Would you live anywhere else? Will you travel and write more?
I do think New York prepares you for a the crossection or personalities and realities on display when you leave the country, and I'd live somewhere else if I had a reason or burning-the-the-point-of-discomfort desire to do so. I have certainly entertained the idea and in college I lived in Edinburgh for a while, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count since I didn't have a "job" or have to "pay rent."
Outside of the UK, this name hits around the same mark on the rarity scale as mine does. Plus it starts with an "S" so....you have a face, I have a face, you like soda, I like soda...basically the same thing!
This one's my fault. Apparently I lisp on the phone. Or just on my office voicemail. Strangers will call and not even hesitate to say "Flo." No uncertainly. They just plow right through it and state their business.
That I made up for effect. I just couldn't recall all the many nom-de-bastardizations while writing the essay. I don't think anyone has actually ever called me Stacey. And if they have, I haven't responded.
Because it's always appropriate to apply a Saved By The Bell reference—like a warm neon salve—to any human being you meet.
This is a frequent occurrence. Again, my fault. Usually heard in public, if someone says "Slow Down!" to someone else on the street, I'll often turn. Not because I had been prancing along at a dangerously fast clip (though I live in Manhattan so I probably was) but because the word "slow" overlaps with the sound of my name for just long enough to catch my attention and subsequently make me feel like an idiot.
Publicist: How did this book (I Was Told There’d Be Cake) come to be?
Sloane Crosley: While I was moving in Manhattan, I managed to brilliantly lock myself out of two separate apartments – two, count them, two – on the same day. Since moving from walk-up to walk-up in New York is already one of those infamously difficult tasks that really shouldn’t be difficult, I thought that having the same epic struggle within a 12-hour period was a good story. So I typed up what was essentially a play-by-play about the experience and sent it to some friends over e-mail, including an editor at The Village Voice. He worked with me on editing it, cleaning it up, and making it a larger story. And I found that I loved doing it and it worked. So he printed the piece and I started writing regularly for The Voice, followed by other places. Before that, I had only written longer fiction and suddenly I found myself enamored with the other side. Writing the essays specifically for I Was Told There’d be Cake was such a wonderfully fun experience. With a book, you have the room take yourself out for a spin. You can let each essay take its’ own shape and to really tell a story over time. Whereas writing 800 words for a newspaper or magazine can be a bit like – speed dating.
I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi. This is how I Was Told There’d Be Cake ends -- I pick up the phone and order in sushi. Of course, the book’s a collection of essays, not a novel, so the possibilities of cheating at this analysis are endless. Or, well, generously finite: I have a total of 15 possible endings. That’s 14 other chances for profundity and reflection. 14 other chances to say, “Remember me like this.” Perhaps that’s why I have such a fondness for essays to begin with. There is no thought process, no road taken that you can’t turn back from. It provides a kind of freedom and indulgence that a novel cannot. It’s also a bit less pressure, so long as you like endings, which I do.
With essays, it’s as if the camera is on you for a local news segment. And you’re reading -- I don’t know -- the weather. It’s hailing outside. So you start telling everyone about this one time when you got caught in a hailstorm with your wacky ex-con uncle. And you’re going on and on and it’s like a tangent from hell. You’re embarrassing yourself. But because this just a news segment, because it’s not a major motion picture or a 10-hour documentary film, you get the guy behind the camera mouthing “wrap it up!” Just as your essay collection must move on, so must this show. People need sports and traffic reports!! It’s great.
Thing is, it has to stop somewhere. You can’t just keep writing essay after essay unless you’re dead and “collected.” Eventually you have to make a decision that the last line of the last essay is what some people might remember best about the book. So I had the cameras stop rolling on sushi. All of my adventures and thoughts balanced on a plate of raw fish. “I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi.” It’s actually kind of awkward and a contradictory mix of words. “Orders” are things that emanate out, not go in. And there’s too much direction in it. The phone goes up and the order goes out. It’s like the sentence has epilepsy. Of course, it’s not actually that confusing. But it is if you think about it too hard as I am doing now. However, it does make you wonder -- with all these potential problems, why is it the very last line of the very last essay?
For one thing, because it feels like less of a cliffhanger than the other essays do. For instance, the last line of the first essay is “From now on I would make a conscious effort to remember -- should I find myself face-to-face or pipe-to-skull with the end of my life -- that the real proof that I have tried to love and that people have tried to love me back was never going to fit in a kitchen drawer.” Without knowing what that particular essay is about, I think you can gleam the general tone of hope and encouragement. I want to know what love is. I want you to, you know, show me. Will I find out? Or will I just be smacked on the head with a pipe in the next essay? Big questions. They warrant further study and they get it.
“I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi” quite intentionally does not have that quality. It is pat and simple and, above all, does not leave a reader wondering who the hell I am as a human. To demonstrate, allow me to take you to the edge of the suspense bluff and push you off: After I picked up the phone, I dialed a number from a sushi take-out menu, eschewing the other menu I have for the restaurant that has faster service but offers both Chinese and Vietnamese fare. Let’s face it, too many selections hurt everyone. I used a credit card and ordered a shrimp tempura roll, a spicy tuna and an eel and avocado hand roll. I was going to get edemame but I changed my mind because among my many small but distinct psychological problems is that I think there’s something gross about having steamed vegetables delivered. Then the sushi came and I ate it, opening up the soy sauce packets and splatter painting them directly on to the rice.
As mundane as this is, I assure you it was even more mundane when it happened. And this is intentional. The essay itself is called Fever Faker and it’s about how I was twice nearly diagnosed as having a potentially fatal health problem. The first had to do with my brain and the second had to do with my blood. One of the major confessions I make in this essay is my desire to have actually developed these diseases. Not because I have a death wish or even its’ wimpy cousin: hypochondria. I just like the idea of having an awesome excuse to explain myself at all times. With the blood thing, if I had it, it would have my reason for bowing out of parties or being cranky. But I would also have to watch my iron intake, which exacerbates the blood thing. Sushi is a common source of excess iron. In fact, it’s the #1 most iron-laden genre of take-out. So me picking up the phone and ordering in sushi is akin to a simple shrug, a “what are you gonna do? Guess I have no one to blame for me but me.” It’s the young city person’s version of surviving a heart attack only to order a cheeseburger with a cigar in it.
Finally, I ended the book like this because, without being a real cliffhanger, there is something beyond the line itself. Like a hidden track on a CD, which the other 14 endings don’t have. Just before the essay ends, I am thinking about how I have to use my phone to call family and friends who are waiting to hear if I have a rare blood disease. But I have had a long day and I decide to be selfish, do the wrong thing, and make toro belly my priority. If the line works, the reader knows that after I give my credit card number over the phone and hang up, the phone is getting picked up again to fulfill my obligations and set other peoples minds at ease. Thus, the essay goes on, keeps living, keeps having minor and major incidents. It’s not suspense, it’s reality.
Personally, I don’t read essay collections from start to finish. I usually read the first entry and then jump around. But I wanted to put that line in there for those more logically minded and patient readers who stuck with me without wavering. To me, it is a tiny rebellion towards the overly simplified summaries so often associated with personal essays. “Here is what I learned about me and about you,” they say. “I am a piece of candy twisted symmetrically at the ends,” they say. “Eat me!” I am occasionally guilty of this myself. The thing about life is that sometimes you do learn valuable things about yourself. But most of the time you really don’t. In my belief, this doesn’t make an experience less worthwhile or worth telling.
A personality is like a filtering system. Occasionally, something gets into the system and alters it for the better and for good reason. But, for the most part, experience reinforces the structure that’s already there. Reinforcement is not without value. So, if the events of Fever Faker had changed my disposition DNA, the essay would have ended with something like this: “Craving raw fish after my weeks of prematurely paranoid deprivation, I picked up the phone and dialed the number for the sushi place. Then, thinking better of it, I stopped. I smiled to myself as I dialed home instead.” This would have been a totally suitable ending if the essay occurred earlier, both in real time and in the collection itself. But it didn’t. And it would have felt right to say if the local news cameras were still rolling. But they weren’t. So this is how I Was Told There’d Be Cake ends -- I pick up the phone and order in sushi.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter what's true and what's not. Fame is like death: We will never know what it looks like until we've reached the other side. Then it will be impossible to describe and no one will believe you if you try. For now, all the conjecture is on our side of the media fence. And lately it has put Tom Cruise one spoke behind Michael Jackson on the freak wheel. But why do we hate him so? Because she's 17 years his junior? Because he doesn't want Katie even pretending to do drugs on-screen lest she wind up like that Brooke Shields woman? Because he sent psychic vibes to have his Scientologist minions kidnap her so that she missed pieces of April? Because he rudely jumped up and down on Oprah's lovely sofa with his shoes on? There was a time when we worshipped Tom Cruise. OK, I. Iworshipped Tom Cruise. Another similarity between Ms. Holmes and myself is that I too wanted to grow up and marry him. I just never said it in print.
There is a documented lineage to our horrification as complex as the Kennedy family tree. Picture it: North Carolina, 1998, on the set of a new WB series revolving around teenage lust and breaking and entering. Behind the scenes of this girl-next-door-lives-next-to-boy-next-door drama, a similar real-life romance is unfolding. Katie Holmes's first love was Joshua Jackson. With cheek dimples full of equal parts innocence and sex she moved on to Chris Klein, who has about as much edge as a marshmallow but was certainly true to type. After a logical brief relationship with Josh Hartnett, she did the romantic equivalent of turning herself into a symbol à la Prince. Up until a few weeks ago—when she started smiling like a maniac in photos, like she'd won something—we were cool with Katie. Not so for Tommy boy. His love life has been spinning out of control like one of Nicole's frizzy tendrils in Days of Thunder since that fateful film brought Cruise his long-term Australian beard. Throw in a little Penélope Cruz (the logic of that will be explained to us in the next life, when we are all cats), enough anecdotes about his sisters using him for kissing practice, a pinch of Dianetics, and blend. We know too much not to be shocked.
"So, if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?"
"Don't be silly," she laughed, "of course I would, honey. There'd be no one left on the planet. It would be a very lonely place.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake
Incidentally, this is an unacceptable answer to that question.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake
“The only bit I have pictured in any detail is the music (maybe 'The Book of Love' by the Magnetic Fields. Or Johnny Cash's 'It Ain't Me, Babe'). It doesn't matter if the selection is slow or fast, but couples shouldn't scramble to select it. If you have ever gone dancing or on a road trip or had a romantic bout of serenaded sex on a winter night, you should have a few to pick from. If not, you probably shouldn't be getting married.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake
“After a breakup, I'll conduct the normal breakup rituals. I'll cut up photographs, erase voice mails, gather his dark concert T-shirts I once slept in and douse them with bleach before I use them to clean my bathtub.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number