Book Review: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley.

Like most of the authors I tend to favour (Mick Foley, Dominick Dunne), Sloane Crosley is not very well known in Australia, but she’s all the rage on the U.S. indie scene, with her latest offering of essays, How Did You Get this Number, and her first publication, I Was Told There’d Be Cake.

I don’t usually read short stories, but I made an exception this time around, as they are more creative non-fiction “essays” than fictional short stories.

And my, were they worth it. Crosley certainly has a snarky way with words, and her style reminds me a bit of Mia Freedman mixed with the tone of Jezebel and a good helping of laugh-out-loud-ness.

What I normally do when I’m reading or watching TV is immediately update my Facebook status with any funny or poignant (but mostly just funny) quotes from said book/blog/magazine/TV show/movie, and the amount of Facebook fodder that come out of them usually determines their caliber. (Just from the amount of Grey’s Anatomy quotes I’ve been supplying my Facebook feed with, it’s a quality program.)

So here are a few of my favourite quotes from I Was Told There’d Be Cake:

  • “All this post-collegeiate getting up early and not wearing jeans every day was starting to wear on my temperament,” (can’t give you the page number because I didn’t write it down :(.)
  • “I don’t think God even actually knows when Hanukah starts. I’m pretty sure we rent Him out to the Catholics for the month of December and retrieve him for Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and other celebrations not based on milk chocolate and fluorescent wax,” (Ditto.)
  • “For a year my father had been working at a division of his company in Sydney, communicating with us largely via fax. Then one day we had visas and passports and private schools picked out… ‘Everyone in Australia goes to private school,’ my father explained, a statistic that still makes no sense,” (p. 69). It makes no sense ‘cause it isn’t true.
  • “I wanted to be Australian as soon as humanly possible. I went on a self-designed immersion program(me). I started watching tapes of post-Kylie Minogue/pre-Natalie Imbruglia Neighbours, an Australian soap opera popular in the UK for its mind-numbing, cliffhanger plots. These were about as intricate as one character’s shoelaces coming untied and the question on the table being if the shoelaces would get tied in the next episode. If you’ve never had the good fortune to see Australian soap operas (Home & Away, another classic), let’s just say they make American soap operas look like Requiem for a Dream. The unrated version,” (p. 70–71).
  • “Names I am most commonly called by telemarketers: Simone, Slain, Siobhan, Flo, Stacey, Susan, Slater, Leanne and Slow (Yes, my parents named me ‘Slow’. That’s because they hate me and made me sleep in the linen closet subsisting only on bath salts and Scope.),” (p. 76). Try having the name “Sequoia”, which my sister does. She gets such gems as “Seq, Sigourney, Sig, Sigi B, Sigisbert, Maloia, Maloy, Square, Quoi, Sex, Sequila and Squealing Dogs”, most of which were made up by me.
  • “I think husbands are like tattoos—you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo palour on some idle Sunday…” (p. 157).
  • “‘I started my vegetarianism for health reasons, then it became a moral choice, and now it’s just to annoy people’,” (p. 207).
  • “I have the same number of veggie friends as I do gay friends. Because it’s so common and often even hip to be a vegetarian, it’s become socially acceptable to poke fun at us. Being a vegan, of course, is more like the dietary equivalent of being a transsexual. Acceptance isn’t quite as contagious as it should be,” (p. 208–209).
  • “‘Oh, because “larval fat” is so much less traumatising than “fuck”,’” (p. 128).
  • “It seemed more and more like something out of a children’s book—the butterfly that followed the little girl all the way home to her fifth-floor walk-up,” (p. 135).

Those last two quotes come from my favourite chapter, in which Crosley volunteers in the butterfly collection at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. This hit close to home as, while I don’t divulge my workplace on this here blog, the complex I work in encompasses a butterfly collection.

The chapter gets increasingly harebrained as Crosley has irrational fears of the world’s largest moth, the Atlas moth, which is named for the globe-like pattern on its wings, attacking her. Low and behold, the Atlas moth attaches itself to Crosley’s back one evening, and follows her home, all the way to her “fifth-floor walk-up”. She freaks out and manages to transfer it from her shoulder to the shower curtain, then into a sieve to transport all the way back to the museum. What happens next is the moral of the story, but I might just let you find that out for yourself ;).

 

 

 

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