I’m not stingy with laughs. Ask my friends – I’ll laugh at all sorts of things from bloopers videos and fart jokes to the driest of dry or the darkest of dark. Just an hour ago, this made me laugh –
See? It doesn’t take much… I guess you could say that my sense of humour is broad (unlike my reading tastes). Which brings me to ‘funny’ books. Because they’re usually not. It takes a lot for me to laugh-out-loud while I’m reading a book. Sure, I smile a lot and maybe chuckle-on-the-inside but to actually audibly laugh is a rare thing. So, a big tick for Sloane Crosley’s book of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, with particular reference to Smell This, her account of the night when she found a mystery turd on her bathroom floor after a dinner party –
“There is no etiquette, no protocol for asking one’s friends, “Did you by any chance take a dump on my floor after dinner the other night?” It’s awkward… This isn’t Edith Wharton’s New York. Nobody’s perfect. We’re only human after all. But shit on the carpet is so outlandish – so potentially hostile – suffice it to say, no one, but no one, is used to being questioned about it.”
Crosley is a thirty-something author who lives in New York, writes columns for impressive publications and has dabbled in publishing. Before you start to think she has the perfect life, know that she also coerces boyfriends (by stealth) into buying her My Little Ponies; is named after a character in what turned out to be a fairly shit film (and now she’s saddled with Sloane Ranger jokes); and admits that she ditched her volunteer work shift to see How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Sure, ‘admitting’ to these quirky ‘flaws’ makes for great essays but Crosley pulls it off without sounding like that’s exactly what she’s doing.
Like any collection, there are highs and lows. Skip the stories about losing her wallet in New York and the search for a suitable one-night stand and instead admire the melodrama of Fever Faker and the brilliance of Bastard Out of Westchester, where Crosley recommends doing your offspring a favour by having them in another country –
“I am going to give birth to them on foreign soil – preferably the soil of someplace like Oostende or Antwerp – destinations that have the allure of being obscure, freezing, and impossibly cultured. These are places in which people are casually trilingual and everyone knows how to make good coffee and gourmet dinners at home without having to shop for specific ingredients. Everyone has hip European sneakers that effortlessly look like the exact pair you’ve been searching for your whole life. Everything is sweetened with honey and even the generic-brand Q-tips are aesthetically packaged. People die from old age or crimes of passion or because they fall off glaciers.”
Equally good is Christmas in July where Crosley talks about her family’s Jewish-meets-Christian-approach to holidays – read it for her description of her dad building a fire and, in a separate incident, her camp-mates using maxi-pads as burning torches. Each story builds beautifully without feeling as if it’s all been structured around the punchline.
3.5/5 A little uneven but the stand-outs are hilarious.
Crosley, a keen baker, makes a dark chocolate and pear tart –
“Tarts are the red pandas of the baking Amazon. They are all about what you’re not allowed to do.”
This one from Always Order Dessert looks suitably delicious and complicated.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter – the results for the day I finished this book (June 13): Belfast 12°-18°, Melbourne 4°-15°.