Sunday, July 4, 2010

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

The quote I used in the title is the first sentence of the first essay "The Pony Problem" from the book I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and it was this opening that drew me into the book.  It's what got me to buy the book in the first place.  I had just intended to pick up one new book and I had already found it on one of the bargain tables (win!).  But the other person I had come to the Booksmith with had disappeared so while I wandered around trying to find him I ended up in the Essay section of the store and I saw this book.  I was already getting some strange looks from people who saw me repeatedly wandering up and down aisles without actually looking at the shelves, so to keep from looking suspicious I thought I should stand in one place for awhile and actually look at a book.  So really, I came across this as a tactic to make sure no one thought I was casing the place.  This is one of the reasons I love bookstores; I tend to come across books in the oddest of circumstances. 

I read the first few essays and so far my favorite is "The Good People of This Dimension".  It's probably because out of the stories I've read so far I relate the most to this one.  I don't have a collection of objects from exes ("The Pony Problem"), I'm not Jewish and have never gone to a Christian summer camp ("Christmas in July"), and I've never had a boss as abusive as Sloane ("The Ursula Cookie").  That's not to say I have to relate to a story to enjoy it, but it's certainly easier to commiserate than compare and having shared a number of homes with a number of people, commiserating is what you do when you're talking about apartment living.   

I've never had roommates or shared a building with other tenants who removed the hinges on the door in order to get in because they didn't want to touch the doorknob or tried to dig their way to China.  Perhaps you need to live in NYC to get that level of crazy.  I can certainly relate to the noise complaints. In the essay the restaurant downstairs decides to add a back dining patio and the construction noise each morning becomes a lot to deal with. The kids in one of my old neighborhoods had an affinity for fireworks that didn't limit itself to the 4th of July.  Perhaps they were just more patriotic than I am.  I never made it to the point Sloane did, of actually calling in a formal complaint but I'm sure I will become the crotchety neighbor at some point.  So far the closest I've come is yelling into the vents how crazy it is that you can hear conversations going on in the other apartments after my neighbor woke me up during an argument with his girlfriend at 2am again.  Passive-aggressive I know, but I knew too much about his clearly failing relationship and it seems he thought so too; after this move he made sure to have his arguments at a lower volume.  Or during the work day.  And then he made the ultimate kind gesture and moved out. 

It's not just the shared experience I enjoyed about this story, but the voice that comes through.  The line, "The first floor is really the second floor, which always struck me as very European until I moved in and had to climb an extra flight of stairs each day," (60) made me literally laugh out loud.  Probably because I feel the same way, especially when climbing the stairs to my friend's 4th-floor-but-actually-5th-floor walk-up apartment.  It's a mean trick to play on people. 

I think there's something to her writing that feels like someone sharing her personal stories with you so you want to share something back.  But clearly I'm sharing something here on my blog instead of actually with her.

By the way, happy 4th of July to my fellow American readers!

Title quote from page 1

Crosley, Sloane.  I Was Told There'd Be Cake.  Riverhead Books; New York.  2008.


  1. It sounds great. I'm going to put it on my list.

  2. I hope you enjoy it! The more of it I read, the more I like.

  3. I've met your blog through the Book Blogger Hop.

    I picked up Sloane Crosley's book at the library yesterday and this morning read some smatterings. I'm thinking of using one or two essays for my freshman writing students very early in the fall semester.

    Have you heard about her latest book? I devoted a post to it within the last week or so.

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


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