Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exploring New Territory: Sloane Crosley's How Did You Get This Number

A monument to Columbus, depicting his departure for the New World from Portugal, described in "Show Me on the Doll"

Sloane Crosley's collection of essays invites the readers into her life with authenticity and slightly self-deprecating humor. Her unique, personal experiences reveal universal truths about friends, relationships, and family that we can all relate to. We follow Sloane as she travels to Paris, Lisbon, and Alaska, deals with roommate and apartment woes in Manhattan, and recalls her childhood in the 'burbs.

This is Crosley's second collection of personal essays, following her debut I Was Told There'd Be Cake. In How Did You Get This Number, we meet a slightly older, more worldly Sloane, who is now grappling with the inevitability of turning thirty. To avoid accusations of never having lived in the moment in her twenties, Sloane sets out to prove to herself that her childhood dreams are not dead in “Show Me on the Doll.” Because she wanted to do so as a child, she spins a globe in her apartment, lets her finger arbitrarily point, and travels to Portugal as a result. Because now she is an adult and can do something this ambitiously adventurous and irresponsible. Her trip to Portugal in the wintertime and by herself turns out to be very lonely at first. As she wanders the streets of Lisbon, the readers get a real feel for this cold, ancient city with its tiny unidentified streets and steep slopes. Sloane unenthusiastically tours the Europe's edge and she also discovers the edges of her comfort zone. However, the trip takes a turns for the better when she meets amateur circus clowns.

In “Off the Back of a Truck,” Sloane falls in love and gets her heart broken. As she decorates her first studio apartment with luxurious rugs and doorknobs supplied by her “upholstery guy” at a great discount in shady transactions, another kind of deception takes place in her personal life. Sloane's intense heartbreak is described so well in some sentences, that we visualize several scenes as in a film: her pain is so great that she can't get herself into bed and falls asleep on one of her newly acquired fancy rugs. Humor and sadness interweave, a trait so characteristic for all of her essays.
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