Sloane Crosley’s humorous memoirs are in the vein of David Sedaris, to whom she is frequently and flatteringly compared; likely for want of a better description.
While Crosley operates within the same outline, her craft is not in the same league as Sedaris or, my preferred contemporary of the same genre, Augusten Burroughs.
The beauty of the personal essay is the delicate balance between mundanity, the oddness of life, and the gentle self-deprecation of the author. Add a dash of clever wording, a few humorous descriptions, and the odd comic digression, and you’re in business. What makes Sedaris so unique and, most importantly, so absorbing, is his ability to reel you in with a mundane or wacky story and, at the end, wrap it up neatly with an overarching theme, message, or feeling imbued with importance. On all of these counts, Crosley fails.
From getting locked out of both her flats on moving day to her year as the assistant to a Miranda Priestly-esque publisher, the stories become no more interesting beyond the gist. While the writing itself is not at fault, the stories are mundane to the point of boring and, unlike Sedaris’ essays, lack pathos.
That is not to say that she doesn’t try. In her essay ‘Bastard Out of Westchester’ Crosley attempts to relate her wish for her kids to be “different” (which equates to being foreign) to the existential crisis she has invented around the uniqueness of her first name, Sloane. This attempt at taking two seemingly unrelated statements and, with the dexterity of words, making them fit feels more like a small child on tippy-toes reaching for the cookie jar and the sugar bowl at the same time with both tiny hands.
Pathos aside, what is worse is that her essays are not funny. While I seldom laugh out loud at Sedaris (and know I am pretty much alone in that regard), Burroughs is second only to Bryson in his ability to make me giggle, snort, then chase after the nearest bystander, tears streaming and forefinger stabbing wildly at the page.
Sorry, Sloane. I wish this genre was big enough for the three of you, but when you punch wildly into a genre with established masters, they are inclined to win.
If you’re still intrigued by the humorous memoir, I recommend Augusten Burrough’s Magical Thinking.