I became familiar with Slone Crosely through her first collection of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which is a motto near and dear to my heart. In it Crosley weaves tales of NY wonder and woe so brilliantly it felt as if she’d been stalking me. In one essay she relates a nightmarish tale of moving a mere ten blocks in Manhattan that is so vicariously traumatizing you’ll never pack another box again. So it was without reservation that I picked up her new book, How Did You Get This Number.
This time around, Crosely is settling into her own as an adult and she’s reasssesing her life, wondering what it all means. In these nine new essays her writing is a little more self-conscious, maybe trying a little too hard to make at best tenuous thematic connections. Can you blame her? (Hey, the last book was such an unexpected bestseller, she knew someone might actually read this one.) As a result some of the essays feel forced, such as “An Abbreviated Catalog of Tongues,” in which she revisits her childhood pets and her family’s misguided attempts to care for them.
That said, this is a lovely collection. “Le Paris!,” “Light Pollution” and “Show Me on the Doll” take us to Paris, Alaska and Lisbon, respectively. With Crosley out of her comfort zone, her experiences mirror the transition from fancy-free twentysomething to what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life thirtysomething, which is what I felt the book at-large was about. My favorite essay was the last, “Off the Back of the Truck,” a layering of a period in her life when she falls in love twice: the first time with with a man who seemed perfect but wasn’t, and the second with the loot from a high-end furniture thief who ends up being the more honest of the two.
This is a tough genre. Humorous personal essays can quickly cross the line from being relevant and witty to ranting and navel-gazing. Few can make the reader laugh while crying out, “Me, too!” Crosley joins the elite group of writers, including Sedaris and Ephron, who have that ability, and I look forward to hearing more from her.