Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I was told there’d be cake

I remember all the snark directed at Sloane Crossley when this book came out: lots of jealousy, it seemed to me at the time. Let the woman have her day in the sun. Still, jealous myself, perhaps, I didn’t exactly rush out to buy the book either. Then, I saw a friend with it: there is still something so persuasive about that, isn’t there? I can read a dozen blog entries about a book and simply be aware that it exists, that people are writing about it, but seeing the object in the hands of someone you like really does make it seem like people are reading it.

I bought it the other day at Three Lives and read it on the train upstate (don’t ask me how—I did feel like a negligent, classic academic mother, foisting crayons and video games onto my children whilst stage-whispering “play with each other, Mommy’s reading”). It’s really, really charming and funny.

She is very young and the essays are almost all tours de force about how to make an uneventful and privileged life into material to write essays about. Still, the long set piece about being bridesmaid to an old, nearly-forgotten friend is both touching and hilarious. And there is a brief discussion about the boorish and homophobic boyfriend of a good friend and how Crossley pushed back when he made his guffawing comments about lesbians that’s really lovely and so familiar. There are a couple essays about wanting to be interesting—one about her name and one about her collection of plastic ponies--that really resonated with me: I was amazed an impressed that she pulled it off.

Ultimately, for all the wit and cleverness, there is a lovely and consistent note, never quite developed, but always there, of real affection for other women. She is proud of and tender about her sister; affectionate and admiring of her mother; fiercely attached to her female friends. For all the moments in which she remembers the Cat’s Eye competition among young women, she never relinquishes the belief that women are allies. Sad, then, that what I remember of the early coverage of the book was a little catty. Am I misremembering out of my own smallness or are we all just as small as that?

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