Though it’s not immediately apparent, Sloane Crosley’s new book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, is quite aptly named. Never does the author establish an outright expectation for cake-or deliver it for that matter, but the sentiment is there, that desire for something sweet and filling that perhaps we all will spend our 20s looking for.
Though it’s not immediately apparent, Sloane Crosley’s new book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, is quite aptly named.
Never does the author establish an outright expectation for cake-or deliver it for that matter, but the sentiment is there, that desire for something sweet and filling that perhaps we all will spend our 20s looking for.
The book is made up of 15 personal essays that reflect on Crosley’s upper-middle-class suburban upbringing, private liberal arts education and professional Manhattan life. It’s enough to make you hate her.
What could possibly be interesting or real about this woman’s privileged insight? Well, a lot actually. She is goofy, smart, self-effacing and, it seems, without an arrogant bone in her body–only funny ones.
And to be fair, she doesn’t throw her affluence in the reader’s face, and it’s not like she’s unwittingly part of the Hilton fortune or anything. Her writings focus more on the irreverent and relatable side of life. Topics include getting locked out of an apartment twice in one day, coming to appreciate a first name like Sloane and keeping a stash of plastic toy ponies hidden in a kitchen drawer (the unfortunate result of too many pony jokes).
The stories are all very candid and honest, peppered not always with disappointment (aka the missing cake), but consistently ending on a different note than one might expect.
One of the most open and funny essays in the bunch is titled “One-Night Bounce” and is concerned with the difficulty of shaking one’s first concept of sex. For Crosley, it was the image of standing on the bed in a pretty dress–heels in one hand, a martini in the other. She thought jumping was what accounted for squeaky-mattress noises that imply off-screen copulation in the movies. The essay, though sexy in nature, doesn’t spare any jokes, and it showcases great nostalgia for the age at which one could only guess what adult life would be like.
The 29-year-old’s perceptive wit and sharp tongue are right up there with the likes of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell–perhaps the reigning king and queen of the quirky personal essay. This comparison is on the cover of the book. Go figure.
In most cases, one ought to err on the side of caution when reading book blurbs, much like movie blurbs (channeling Earl Dittman, who called Robots “more incredible than The Incredibles“), which typically reflect someone else’s agenda. But in this instance, the comment is quite appropriate.
I wouldn’t concede that Crosley is a “postmodern Mary Tyler Moore,” like a back-cover blurb proclaims (as I don’t even know what that means), but it is fair to say she is like Sedaris, and fans of his should most definitely give her a try. Crosley has the same meticulous talent for sticking to a moral or cultural theme within an essay, no matter how many tangents she may go on.
Everything makes sense in the end. An essay is so much more memorable when all its parts contribute to a single message or, less overtly, a collective sentiment. So while the humor of her stories may be fleeting, something greater resonates.
Crosley, recently referred to as the “the most popular publicist in New York” by The New York Observer, has been pimping other people’s books while working at Vintage Books. Now she is a senior publicist, and this is her first book. Her essays have appeared in an array of publications over the past few years, including The Village Voice, The New York Times and Playboy. Though Crosley is a rookie in the author realm of the publishing world, I Was Told There’d Be Cake certainly holds its own as a funny, well-put-together collection. We can only hope she’ll write another.
In a business–not just the writing business, but also the humor business–where women don’t typically achieve the same mass appeal as men, it’s nice to have a few female authors on tap to recommend. Now Crosley is definitely one of them.
I Was Told There’d Be Cake***1/2 (out of five)Sloane Crosley$14