A Journalist's Archive

I Was Told There’d Be Cake
Sloane Crosley
Reviewed by Kathy Hare

Summertime reading couldn’t get any better. Pack this one in your travel bag, or take it out to a lounge chair in the backyard. “I was told there’d be cake,” by Sloane Crosley, is a collection of 15 essays, each saturated with biting wit and lots of belly laughs.

The title says it all. Crosley doesn’t take life or herself too seriously. She’s a member of “Generation Y,” bumbling through life just like the rest of us. However, Crosley’s humor puts a whole new spin on the “sad-sack” tales normally found in memoirs. There are no “woe is me” childhood remembrances. Unless being a product of modern suburbia can be considered a handicap. She earned her stripes honing her wacky sense of humor in the dull, mindless, wasteland of strip-malls, until she was ready to do battle with the big boys in New York City. Now she’s the Big Apple’s literary darling.  Funny, since “darling” isn’t a synonym that fits Crosley. Combine a quirky personality with just the right touch of sarcasm; add brilliant writing – now that’s Crosley.

In the first essay, “The Pony Problem,” it was comforting to discover that Generation Y women have the same phobias as their mothers and grandmothers. If she should die suddenly, Crosley wonders, what will her parents encounter in her apartment? Few women ever speak of this fear, but believe me it plagues millions of us! But the author isn’t worried about the sink full of unwashed dishes, dust balls, or what the bedroom nightstand might contain. No, she’s worried her mother will discover her collection of toy ponies hidden in a kitchen drawer. How she got the ponies is odd enough. And her disposal of the “cult-like” objects is downright hilarious.

Next, Crosley reveals her first employment missteps in “The Ursula Cookie.” Thrilled to have landed a job at a New York publishing firm, she neglects to inquire about her job description or why her predecessor is leaving. Big mistake! It turns out her boss, Ursula, gets her kicks by chewing-up and spitting-out wannabe writers. After months of trying to please this tyrant, Crosley notices a change in her own personality. She becomes mousey, afraid of misfiling a document, let alone submitting her writing for Ursula’s approval.

However, instead of taking solace in drink or drugs, she turns to baking to relieve “publisher stress.” While baking a batch of Christmas cookies, she notices one is the shape of Ursula’s head. With a little decorating skill, she creates a facsimile of her boss’s face. But instead of privately relishing every bite, she foolishly presents the cookie to Ursula. Thus Crosley learned another valuable lesson: publishers have no sense of humor.

Along with the laughs, we get a bit of cultural insight too. Crosley’s childhood ideas about sex invite the question: are public school sex-education classes even covering basic human reproduction? And yes, Crosley is a poster child for the self-absorbed characteristics often attributed to her generation. “Sign Language for Infidels,” is about her attempt to become “a better person.” She tries to improve. She’s willing to “give back” so long as the volunteer work doesn’t require a mop, broom, or “anything involving a ladle.” The butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History appears to fit her requirements, until an Atlas moth begins haunting her.

Yet another female fear, being a bridesmaid, is covered in “You on a Stick.” And anyone unfortunate enough to have played the role can confirm that every word in the essay is the absolute rotten truth. Bridesmaids’ ugly dresses and bad hairdos are designed to keep all eyes on the bride, that’s if bridezilla can make it to the altar before decapitating a member of the wedding party. Crosley writes, “The bride on her wedding day is like a giant eggshell of emotional turmoil ready to crack and turn this whole feast of love into a trauma scramble.” Each and every bridesmaid knows it’s her duty not to let that happen, mainly because they want the happy event over and done with!

Crosley’s unique writing voice will probably make her a perennial favorite on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her collection of essays isn’t about an extraordinary life. It’s about a writer who finds life particularly amusing. Read “I was told there’d be cake,” to get a healthy dose of laughter.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
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