Sloane Crosley grows up in her second book

  • By Hannah Sampson McClatchy Newspapers
  • Thursday, August 19, 2010 7:55pm
  • Life

“How Did You Get This Number” by Sloane Crosley, $25.95

Sloane Crosley’s world is a strange, wondrous, smelly, annoying place, and that’s just Manhattan.

Her ridiculously funny first book, “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” lingered mostly in New York, and Crosley finds new targets there to pick apart in her latest collection of essays.

But Crosley also turns her sharp gaze to the greater world, visiting Portugal (a vacation she chose by spinning a globe), Alaska (beware of bears) and France (bad idea to lie to a priest at Notre Dame).

Her travel-inspired writing includes some lovely observations and David Sedaris-like translation hilarity, but more interesting is the way leaving her tiny island forces her to realize her limitations.

“A human being can spend only so much time outside her comfort zone before she realizes she is still tethered to it. Like a dog on one of those retractable leashes,” she writes about her last-minute solo trip to Lisbon.

Crosley writes as she approaches that age when young women are expected to start freaking out — that would be 30 — and captures the sense of alarm at time’s flight without sinking to stereotypes about the sound of biological clocks.

She remembers childhood left behind: the brief baby genius era, the string of ill-fated pets that lived and died with the family, and the combination of innocence and mean girl-ness of preteen slumber parties.

In one of the most moving of the nine essays, she revisits a lesson her mother taught her at the arrival of the Tiffany catalog: “You should never wear anything you can’t afford to lose.”

Instead of a priceless bauble, that unaffordable item takes the shape of a man who waits on her front stoop with coffee in the morning, who tells her he wakes up every morning wanting to see her, who asks her to make long-term plans “with his family.”

But then everything changes, “the faucet of affection had slowed to a drip” and a revelation emerges that leaves Crosley lying on her carpet “compiling a list in my head titled “Reasons to Get Up: You Don’t Have to Leave, but You Can’t Pee Here.”

Crosley told her funniest crowd pleasers in the last book, but she’s done some growing up since then. She is smarter now, sadder too, and her essays capture the melancholy — and wisdom — that come with a few more years of living.

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