Sloane Crosley has made an impressive leap from being the most popular publicist in New York to the role of published author. While she can't yet claim victory in that category's popularity contest, it doesn't hurt that both Jonathan Lethem and Ames are singing her praises, thus locking down her support among esteemed authors named Jonathan. With her debut book of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, she'll take you on an amusing tour of her New York, one you've most likely seen glimpses of in the subway, the vestibule to your apartment building and while staring in the face of a locksmith who's let you back into two separate apartments on moving day.
Tomorrow night catch Crosley read at BookCourt in Cobble Hill.
How did you go from being "the most popular publicist in New York" to being a best selling author? Mostly through a publicist-slash-author kit I found on the Internet. You should have seen the one for the model-slash-actor. There was a “star map” of Hollywood and a bottle of vodka in that one. Frankly, it’s a tough question to answer since the first distinction I still think of as an exaggeration and not my own. I will say holding down two jobs has been a very slow process – an extremely rewarding one, but also a very organic one. There’s no way of going back and unfolding the blueprints.
The publicist of a book publicist/author seems like a high pressure/awkward job; I'm sure it'd be an impossible task but did you consider doing your own PR? I would say that in the past few months I’ve averaged 1.5 awkward moments a day. But I did anticipate that strangeness enough to know that I shouldn’t be doing all my own PR. I also know Riverhead has a great publicity department. I helped – a book is like your baby and it would have been kind of idiotic and irresponsible not to help -- but I can’t imagine how I would have done the exact same thing I do for my authors with myself. “Hi, I’m calling to see if you’d like to interview...me…I’m available for interviews, oh, now’s good.” Click.
With all the praise, have you fallen victim to any backlash? Well, there are worse things to fall victim to (typhus). Most journalists have been professional and I sincerely value the praise as well as the criticism. It’s not great when “backlash” creeps into legitimate reviews but – who knows? – Maybe some of those reviews wouldn’t exist without a back-story to analyze.
When did you begin writing, and how did the book come about? About 3 years ago. I began writing personal essays for The Village Voice, The Observer and a bit for Black Book and places like that. But then I started writing them on my own, seeing how far I could go without strict word counts. And, more importantly, seeing what I would write about if I didn’t have to pitch the idea for a particular section or seasonal issue.
Where did the title come from? I knew I didn’t want it to be the title of one of the essays. It’s like if you had cookbook named after one recipe and that one recipe turned out differently than you thought it would, you might not trust the rest of the cookbook. It just popped into my head one day and I actually remember dismissing it, having only thought of it as a joke. But the more I worked on the essays the more I felt it encapsulated both the tone and point of them.
How did your family react to the essays; was there anything in there they hadn't known about or were surprised to read your take on? I was most worried about my sister. I spend a large portion of the final essay detailing every physical ailment she’s ever had. But she was totally fine with it. And my parents are very much the people in the essays. They’re pretty psyched about this whole business. But it is funny to watch them pick out details, like a specific piece of dialogue. One will say, “I never said that” and the other will reply, “Oh, yes you did.”
Do you miss the ponys? Getting them out of the house was cathartic. I do wonder what became of them. Sometimes I think the essay you’re referring to might be like a subconscious version of that website that kid made to find his “NYC Dream Girl” and that someone will come forward and admit to finding a sac of toy ponies on the F train.
Is there another book in the works? Will you get into fiction, or keep to personal essays? I will continue to write personal humor essays as long as there are venues that will print them on occasion. I am also working on a novel.
When I bought the book the girl who checked me out screeched ecstatically about how she read about it on Daily Candy and had been meaning to read it herself. It seems like the book is reaching a wide audience; would you consider bringing your writing to tv or film in the future? That’s kind of amazing. Behold the power of Daily Candy, right? Yes, I would consider writing for tv or film.
Who are some of your favorite authors, and how is it to be compared to some of them and have Jonathan Ames call you a modern day Dorothy Parker? Well, it doesn’t suck. It’s flattering, validating – and daunting. The Dorothy Parker comparison, especially. Beyond the aphorisms, some of her older pieces for places like McCall’s are so timeless. But for one thing, I don’t fancy myself anywhere near her skill level. For another, she did swallow a bottle of shoe polish. For humor, I’m a huge fan of David Rakoff. Or A.E. Gill. For essays in general, no one ever went wrong with Joan Didion. For language, people like Russell Banks or Lorrie Moore. Russell Banks has this one story called Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story that I read maybe twice a year.
Is there some pride in writing the cover story for the worst selling Maxim issue; what was it about? It was an interview I did with “The Women of One Tree Hill.” The women in question were bright and generally not as obsessed with sex and pillow fights as they needed to be. But apparently the issue did so poorly because there were too many women on the cover. None were zoomed-in on enough. Turns out, without the aid of film, men need to be able to focus on one woman if they’re going to use their imaginations.
Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. I’m not sure of the strangest, but a couple of months ago there was a crack addict sleeping in the vestibule of my brownstone for a few nights. The first night I came home, I spent no small amount of time trying to figure out how to open my front door without hitting her. Eventually she woke up and made this very painful attempt at opening the door the rest of the way. This was one of the more terrible social interactions I’d ever had, ending with me encouraging her to get back to sleep. Then I randomly saw her the next day (she was wearing the same torn off-the-shoulder t-shirt) on 57th and 6th. We made eye contact and I said “see you tonight” and she kind of guy-nodded me.
Which New Yorker do you most admire? George Plimpton.
Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? I wouldn’t change it. I have quality of life issues, issues of inconvenience and annoyance, not enough of this or too much of that – but without that stuff, I’d have less to write essays about.
Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? Drugged and shoved into the trunk of a car? Is that a circumstance? I wouldn’t leave New York for another place. If I left, it would be because I was enticed by an outside force or because I wanted to explore a part of my life that would be better explored elsewhere. But not because I would be done with New York. When New Yorkers leave the city, it’s probably the first time in their lives they say “it’s not you, it’s me” and truly mean it.
Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? Encounter-wise, I got a free pass to the Reebok Sports Club so I went on got on a treadmill directly next to a super-fast woman who, upon closer examination, was Mira Sorvino. That was actually a pretty depressing encounter. This other time, I saw Matt Damon walking in the West Village and he looked so familiar, I was convinced I went to college with him and didn’t want to be rude, so I went out of my way to cross the street and say hello and he spotted me and quickly rounded a corner. That was a pretty embarrassing encounter. I also accidentally said something very ridiculous to Tina Brown the summer she left The New Yorker – I was an intern. So none of these are “favorites.” Sighting-wise, I was having dinner with two friends at The Spotted Pig and we saw Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Michael Stipe, Natalie Portman, Clare Danes, Drew Barrymore and Jake Gyllenhaal. Some of them came in together but mostly it was a coincidence. The one other “civilian” girl at the table next to us leaned over conspiratorially and said, “is it me or is there something strange going on here?”
What's your current soundtrack to the city? Probably the soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited.