Mary’s Book Review: I Was Told There’d Be Cake By Sloane Crosley

How Excited Was I To Read This Book? 1. Not at all! I remember when it came out seeing it EVERYWHERE. And the title IS clever. I think my problem was maybe that Sloane is the name of a mean girl character in at least one teen movie I used to love? Except now I can’t think which one. But it does sort of SOUND that way, right? Maybe I just have previously undiscovered issues with the girl from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Actually it’s a pretty cool name. Remember I was all about girls named Charlie? Sorry Sloanes of the world! Ms. Crosley herself addresses having a unique name, so I’m going to go ahead and excuse myself for being weird – apparently the rest of the world is too!

Anyway, I saw this lying on my sister’s floor (which is really her back-up-sometimes-primary-bookshelf) and having seen it everywhere else, decided I had to steal it and catch up with all the cool kids who have apparently jumped on this Sloane-driven train. Harrumph.

How Excited Was I After I Read This Book? 8. Totally clever and had me chuckling on my airplane flight. It was even a little awkward… which is par for the course. I’m an out-loud reader. I think I just made up that term but it’s true. At some point in the future my sister and I should write a post on our reading styles. They are weirdly similar. Namely, we giggle. For funny stuff, we chuckle. For happy stuff we make total fools of ourselves with the giveaway giggles. I also occasionally groan aloud or even (most embarrassingly!) make verbal comments, but I think I’m alone in that. My roommate has never called me on it but sometimes he shakes his head at me in a knowing fashion and I can only assume that’s what he is thinking of. My sister will literally get up and walk around when she’s excited, which is perhaps equally weird? Also she reads in the bath. All the time. This totally blows my mind. The first time I read in the bath was also my last. I dropped my beloved Swiss Family Robinson in the water with me and spent the rest of the evening blow drying it back to life. I still have that book, and it still looks rather crinkly.

Book Jacket: Wry, hilarious, and profoundly genuine, this debut collection of literary essays is a celebration of fallibility and haplessness in all their glory. From despoiling an exhibit at the Natural History Museum to provoking the ire of her first boss to siccing the cops on her mysterious neighbor, Crosley can do no right despite the best of intentions-or perhaps because of them. Together, these essays create a startlingly funny and revealing portrait of a complex and utterly recognizable character that’s aiming for the stars but hits the ceiling, and the inimitable city that has helped shape who she is. I Was Told There’d Be Cake introduces a strikingly original voice, chronicling the struggles and unexpected beauty of modern urban life.

Review: This is not only one of my first reviews, it’s also a review of a book of essays. Which presents certain challenges. Bring it on, Sloane.

I loved Crosley’s writing. Wry and acutely observant, she was dropping major truth bombs every other paragraph. This is probably partly because to me her voice was very relatable. I would estimate that she is not much older than me, lives in New York (I did that!), went to a liberal arts college and enjoys reading. I just managed to make her sound generic, but what she really is is accessible.

She heightens this accessibility quotient with a steady string of self-deprecating jokes. These I liked less only because she seems pretty awesome and somewhere along the way this fact has to have occurred to her. Perhaps that will come through in her second book, which is already out, but I kind of doubt it. On the other hand, dating in New York arguably demands such an attitude. From that perspective, Sloane, I salute you. Way to turn some truly tragic moments into genuinely funny humor for the masses. We all get to benefit from every cringe-inducing moment from her time with a terrible first boss to a period spent sharing a summer camp cabin with a terrifying blond girl from Darien. I truly did cringe right along with her, but I also had a lot of fun.

Her world is New York book publishing, but her stories also touch on elements of life anyone, and not just a current or former New Yorker, can relate to. Her descriptions of family relationships are hilarious and sometimes eerily good. And I really appreciated that this was different from a David Sedaris world (one of my very favorite authors, I should add): there are definite pools of normalcy. In fact, Crosley herself, in her very knowingness, provides just such a source of sanity, even as she shows us how insane – and insanely funny – the world around us can be.

You Can Sometimes Tell A Lot About A Book From The First Line: “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.”

Okay, admittedly I haven’t given this any thought. But the second I read this line, I realized that I should!

Recommended for: Airplane rides! Really, it was perfect. Commuters (it’s easy to pick up and put down). And anyone looking for a laugh.

If You Liked This Book You Should Also Check Out: David Sedaris, for more funny commentary about familial relationships. I might throw Sarah Vowell into the same humor category. And for an old-school laugh, check out Nancy Mitford. Like Crosley, she’s incredibly smart and observant. She’s just writing down her observations of a different class of people in a different era!