A witty new voice from the frontlines of single, working women.
The humorous personal essay is the casual fling of reading – all pleasure, no commitment, and you're out before things start to get heavy.
Sharp wit is as essential to the genre as bite is to a good cheddar. Essential, too, is gentle self-mockery. Sanctimony, on the other hand, is a major mood-spoiler.
Sloane Crosley meets these criteria head-on in her entertaining, often mordantly funny but occasionally self-indulgent, debut collection of 15 essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake. Crosley, a 29-year-old publicist at Vintage Books who grew up in White Plains, N.Y, reports from the frontlines of determinedly single, working women toughing out friends' weddings and the trials of Manhattan real estate. She pretty much spares us the dating scene.
Hers is a world in which appearances matter – a lot. She opens with a bang, confessing a source of anxiety: "As most New Yorkers have done, I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day." Beyond the unmade bed and unwashed dishes, it's the exposure of her collection of plastic toy ponies – "the most overtly sentimental part of my life" – that she most fears.
Naturally, rather than leave things to fate, Crosley outs herself. Many of the ponies, which she keeps in a kitchen drawer, are gifts from former boyfriends. This makes opening the drawer "a trip down Memory Lane, which, if you don't turn off at the right exit, merges straight into the Masochistic Nostalgia Highway."
One of Crosley's most engaging essays began as an e-mail to friends, later rewritten for The Village Voice. It's about locking herself out of both her old and new Upper West Side apartments on the day she moved from one to the other.
Ever conscious of appearance, Crosley writes, "Saturday, 8:10 a.m.: I get up to prepare for the movers, who charge by the hour so I'm trying to do as much as I can by myself. I am wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops. Why is this relevant, you might ask. Why is an early-morning outfit description ever relevant? For the first time in my three years of living at my old apartment, I lock myself out."