How Did You Get This Number

Sloane Crosley's debut novel I Was Told There'd Be Cake earned her a spot on the "writers to watch" list for many people, myself included. Now I can say without a doubt that I will purchase anything Sloane Crosley happens to publish from here on out, I don't care if it's a grocery list. She's a delight, a fantastic wordsmith whose small observations are to be cherished as comic gold. Indeed, it's often the sentences spoken as asides that have me laughing out loud in the presence of strangers. Her command of language means that she always seems to have the perfect phrasing for the most bizarre or whimsical circumstance... and she knows when to let the simple description of a thing speak for itself. She, herself, is credibly droll even in the moment (as opposed to reflectively looking back on the event) with a knack for locating the absurd and mapcap in everyday situations... though her own poor luck (or good luck as far as the reader goes) does tend to stretch these scenarios into the farcical. As a twenty-something New Yorker with thirty looming on the horizon, she strikes an obvious chord with me, but I think that her humor should be accessible to anyone... or at least any reasonably intelligent person who understands that we all have our own flaws and if we can't laugh at them once in a while, then we're in for a long, dull ride.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake was so fresh and funny that I worried that there might be too much pressure placed on Crosley for book two, but if anything, I think she's gotten better. As with all delicious things, there is the dangerous tendency to gobble down How Did You Get This Number without any time to breathe. Try to take some time between stories so you can savor the humor... or maybe just re-read it all over again as soon as you finish the first read-through. The stories seem a bit longer, but that's only because she takes her time with each, exploring multiple emotions and ideas that can all be wrapped up in a single experience. She's a little older and a little wiser, so there are fewer foolish events and a greater number of wry observations, though there's still plenty of ridiculous inner turmoil. Part of Crosley's charm for me is the fact that she's very much a New Yorker and the stories in this collection are often set in New York, though she ventures out for various reasons, ultimately always desperate to get back. She starts off with "Show Me on the Doll," describing an impromptu solo journey to Lisbon that gives us all ample justification for not taking more impromptu solo journeys the way our ten-year-old selves might have thought we would when the definition of adulthood encompassed doing whatever we wanted. "Le Paris!" discusses two different trips to Paris, one of which involves a contender for "most awkward conversation" in Crosley's life as she finds herself in confession at Notre Dame, despite the fact that she's Jewish and the priest only speaks French and Japanese. In "Lost In Space," Crosley describes her mother's dreams of a genius child quickly thwarted after discovering that Sloane has a learning disability resulting in terrible spatial relation skills. You might not think this is funny, but wait until you read about Crosley's method for cheating at the SATs which involves padding her bra with post-its. "Take a Stab at It" and "It's Always Home You Miss" are both very New York tales of apartment woe and cab smells, respectively, while "Light Pollution" sees Crosley head to Alaska for a friend's wedding (where "bear bells" are part of the wedding favors). "If You Sprinkle" is a story that any girl can relate to, describing the horror of middle school and then "An Abbreviated Gift of Tongues" is for everyone with a catalog of family pets buried in the backyard, though the Crosley family pets are all interred in duct-tape sealed tupperware. The final story, "Off the Back of a Truck," is perhaps the most poignant of all as a shady arrangement to furnish her apartment with stolen merchandise is described alongside a doomed love affair. This might be the true gem of the collection, for while Crosley often admits to faults and flaws, in "Off the Back of a Truck," she manages to convey emotional vulnerability, heightened by the sense that the wound hasn't quite healed. Through it all, Crosley presents a fantastic image of a strong and independent Manhattan woman... who never has it all quite as together as she might wish. It's easy to relate to Crosley on nearly every level and by the end of each story, you feel as though you've just been told a hilarious story by an old friend over cocktails.

If you need to compare Sloane Crosley to any other popular writer out there, then the closest you'd get is David Sedaris... except Crosley is female, straight, and the epitome of the neurotic New Yorker. She also manages to tell hysterical stories without giving the impression that she's completely exploiting her family and friends. Indeed, despite the presence of those people in her stories, somehow it's Crosley that always comes out as the ridiculous one or, more often, the situation itself is hilarious without injuring or offending any named parties (well, except the one about a bitchy classmate in grade school, but she deserved it). You can toss in some comparisons to Dorothy Parker, but Crosley retains her optimism and sense of whimsy as opposed to cynicism (though there certainly is enough of a New Yorker's suspicion). If you have not yet been privileged enough to read a book by Sloane Crosley, I pity you... but consider this your chance to set things right. Go out to get How Did You Get This Number and pick up I Was Told There'd Be Cake for good measure. I dare you to glance at the first page of either one and not get sucked in by her wit and charm.

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