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How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley

I hereby confess: I think that 90% of the reason I like to read things by Sloane Crosley is because I feel like we could be friends. That's her most genuine appeal as a storyteller; when you sit down and read a Sloane Crosley essay, you feel like you're talking to that friend you almost never see but when you do find time to pencil her in for a beer and a burger at the end of a long and thankless work week you are amazed--and yet not amazed--by just how much you have in common, just how easy it is to talk to her, just how much you like her company, and just how simple it is to slip back into the familiar curves of your friendship together as if no time has passed, as if your friendship is an old leather recliner with the shape of your posterior indelibly stamped into its seat. You don't find yourself anxious to see her all the time the way you are about some people, but when you hang out with her you wonder why that is. Probably because she's prettier than you, and you know it.

How Did You Get This Number is Crosley's second book of humorous essays, the first being I Was Told There'd Be Cake, which I wrote about for this site back in 2008 (whoa). It turns out I actually knew that HBO had optioned Cake for a series back then--I recall learning that information for the first time two weeks ago when Number came out. Go figure. It follows, then, that I don't remember the substance of many of the essays in Cake (although I probably remember more than is usual for me, because of Crosley's very painstaking dioramas. Don't worry, there are dioramas for this book, too, only not made by Crosley and featuring chickens.)

Go with it.

It's so hard to review essay collections. Some are better than others, of course. Crosley has gotten a lot funnier, or, rather, because people don't tend to "get funnier", gotten better at expressing just how funny she is. The book is tightly written and very clever; it comes at being a twenty/thirty-something creative woman in New York from new and unique angles--slightly deranged ones, but still. Of all the essays, "It's Always Home You Miss", an account of riding in a New York taxi cab told in the second person, is the weakest, although I appreciate the attempt. "Off the Back of a Truck", the last one in the collection (and from which the book derives its title), is the best, following the parallel narratives of the author's relationship with a man who was secretly still with his supposed ex-girlfriend during their whole year as a couple, and the author's relationship with a three-hundred-pound man named Daryl who illegally procured expensive home furnishings for her at a fraction of the price.

The other essays settle into a comfortable middle zone. They're all funny, all endearing, all enjoyable to read. My only qualm with the collection--and I hate myself for writing this as much as you hate me for writing this, so to be clear we all hate me and that's fine--is the same problem I had with Sex and the City 2 (GROSS I SAID THAT): not enough New York.

Crosley is a New York girl; she grew up in Westchester, just outside the city, and she's lived here for a long time. Like most twenty-somethings in New York, there's nothing I like more than reading about the experiences of other twenty-somethings in New York. Everyone else's lives seem so exotic to me; they involve hopping from illegal sublet to illegal sublet, smoking in stairwells at parties in Brooklyn at 4 AM, being heartbroken and on the dole after getting fired from a demeaning waitressing gig and sleeping with a guy who's in a band that requires him to wear eyeliner on stage. It all seems very bohemian and exciting and exhausting, and I like it because I'm too into stability and creature comforts to create a life like that for myself, but I find it fascinating and entertaining all the same.

Sloane Crosley is less like that than, say, Emily Gould, whose And the Heart Says...Whatever I also read recently (and liked), but at the very least I was hoping to get a greater glimpse into her career in publishing, which, let me tell you, as someone who also works in publishing, you could satirize the shit out of way more than people ever, ever do. But I guess she still works at Random House, and she seems to like her coworkers, so I guess it makes sense that she's not going to skewer them publicly. But New York! Everybody has such funny New York stories! I wish there were more of them in Number. Crosley takes us to Portugal in the off season, Alaska for a wedding, Paris for the Frenchy mishaps, but we don't spend too much time in the city Crosley has lived in for years and years. It's really too bad.

But Crosley is the sort of writer women who write should want to be. She's funny, she's smart, her prose is sharp and well turned out, she's insightful without being pedantic, and she's wholly and completely relatable. She takes pot shots at herself, but never does she seem pathetic. She tells stories about her friends, but never does it seem like she's exploiting the people she's closest to. Actually, I think one of the best things about the book is that it portrays female friendship in a lovely, realistic way. I think Crosley's probably an awesome friend; she's certainly fun to listen to.

P.S. Watch this trailer, it's whackadoo.

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