Sloane Crosley’s irreverent personal essays have appeared in Playboy, Salon, The New York Times and The Village Voice. And as her bio says: “She also wrote the cover story for the worst-selling issue of Maxim in that magazine’s history.”

This kind of self deprecation peppers her stories, which are original, funny and observant, without being cynical. Her writing has been compared to David Sedaris; closer to home think a less political Marieke Hardy. Now the best of Crosley’s essays have been published in two collections: I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number.

The first essay of her first book (Cake) is about what her loved ones would find in her apartment should she be killed, including her (self-confessed) creepy plastic toy pony collection she has tucked away under her kitchen sink. She also writes about baking a cookie in the shape of her boss’s face in a moment of “temporary insanity”. The initial job interview had seen Sloane and this boss, Ursula, chatting and laughing for hours. Their relationship soon deteriorated, and with it Sloane’s confidence. Until, at the end of the Christmas holidays, Sloane started making shaped and iced cookies:

“I stayed up half the night in the kitchen, making stockings, Stars of David, triple-chocolate lumps of coal, and red circles that would have to be explained as ‘reindeer noses’. The later into the night it got, the further I tested the boundaries of the holiday cookie milieu …

“At about three in the morning, covered in flour, my fingertips dyed primary colors, the idea of the Ursula Cookie came down from the heavens like the speckled spotlights in Ghost

“Of giving her boss, the cookie, she said, ‘Sometimes, when you do something so marvellously idiotic, it’s hard to retrace your thought process using the functional logic now available to you’.”

The essay ends with Sloane handing Ursula a resignation letter, inadvertently on September 11, 2001: “Devastated, but ill-equipped to show it, we were all in a kind of limbo, and we didn’t know it yet.”

The second book sees Sloane recount being diagnosed with severe temporal-spatial deficit; “a learning disability that means I have zero spatial-relations skills. It was official: I was a genius trapped forever in an idiot’s body.” Even as a adult, she has can’t read maps or analogue clocks. (“This,” she says, “remains unbelievable to most people, as demonstrated by the well-meaning but misguided response. ‘I’ll teach you right now’.”). She ponders how many other people have disabilities, “like anti-X-Men with disadvantageous powers”.

In another essay, she describes her globe: “It’s a world where you can still book a flight to Yugoslavia. A world in which there is a dotted line that curves down Germany in a semi-foetal position, dividing it into East and West.” A transcript of the imagined globe-makers’ boardroom discussion about how to mark it out ensues.

She also recalls going to a slumber party at the school’s Queen Bee, Zooey’s house: “We sat in a circle as Zooey instructed us to be extra-sensitive because Rachel was new to school. And because she had two mommies. No one, under any circumstances, was to bring this up … Zoeey’s parents were Republicans. Looking back, I can’t decide which makes me cringe more — that I avoided speaking to Rachel Hermann about her home life or that I participated in a [board] game [called Girl Talk] that predicted the number of babies I would one day expel from my body as dictated by the first digit of my area code. That would be nine. Who wrote this sh-t? Mormons?”

Both these collections made it onto The New York Time’s bestseller list. HBO has bought the movie-making rights for the first, so chances are we might be hearing more about Crosley Sloane soon.

Peter Fray

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