Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Was Told There Would Be Cake - a book review

I know. Lame. Pre-posted somewhere else, but trust me, my brain isn't working in the capacity to write something new right now. If forced to, like if my life depended on it, what I would write would sound like:
"Me want banana, hip hurts, cereal with almond milk, paper cut, weird, like, it's dark out, never thunders in san francisco, isn't that a fleetwood mac song?"

But I found this review I wrote about Sloan Crosley's book of personal essays and well, here it is.

July 2008

I’m more then 1/2 way through “I Was Told There’d Be Cake”, a book of essays by Sloane Crosley. I started it Sunday, by this morning’s bus ride I’ve plowed through this book relatively easily. She’s a good writer. She manages to keep my ever wandering attention as I over stimulate myself on Muni with a coffee, my ipod and the pressing need to scan the bus for possible pick pockets. That, in itself, is impressive, as I’m never one of those people who can read on public transportation. I’m either caught up in the ‘pod or I’m completely passed out and drooling

I’ve felt the need to mention this book to my sees-ter on the phone about how I’m almost done the book, but there is something about her, about this author, that feels unauthentic. There is this weird distrust I have for her. I read these stories, these essays about her life in New York City post graduation and I have flat out, after the first 8 page essay, decided that I do not like her.

I do not like her.

I read the first essay about her need to collect plastic ponies and how each one represented a failed relationship and then turned to the back cover of the book, took one look at her picture and noted her startling resemblance to my dear friend Miranda (who just got married in Mexico).

Miranda is pretty in a very universal way. Gay, Straight, Man, Woman, Cat, Dog, everyone is attracted to Miranda. A myriad number of my gay friends have noted that they would date her if they were straight. Couple the pretty with a crass sense of humor and a penchant for drinking beer for 8 hours straight and she’s the most sought after woman I know, well, until most recently now that she is married to Greg, who is also pretty in a very universal way.

-photo by oneplusone photography (aka Larry & Christy!)

They are an attractive couple. They’re the kind of couple you see having brunch on a Sunday morning, in their pajamas, their dark skin dewy and glowing with pretty. They’re the couple, when you are single, that you wished you were a part of.

Back to “Cake”. Sloane. Sloane looks like Miranda. I read her quirky piece about ponies and relationships and all I can see is Miranda. Miranda is skinny, dark skinned, long haired and quirky. She is weird in a very real way. One that doesn’t make sense, but sorta does. Sloane and the pony collecting? Doesn’t make sense. It feels forced. I don’t buy it for a second.

It is after this revelation on Sunday that I realize I am now caught in a situation where I see the movie before reading the book and now all I see are the actors playing their roles and not any real composite of ideas of these people that the author meant to portray.

Strike one. Against me. I did this to myself. I can’t blame the author. It’s not her fault she’s a doppelganger for one of my best friends.

After several more essays, one about the horrible boss ala ‘Devil Wears Prada’ or the less fluffy version ‘Swimming with Sharks’, I started to get annoyed. While she’s not perpetuating the “Carrie Bradshaw” syndrome, I really don’t need to know what it’s like to be young, single, living in New York City. If I wanted to, I could have done that. It would have been easy enough to move from Boston to NYC after college, get an office job and spend my time wondering if the purpose of my life is to look good, date the wrong men and steal office supplies from work. I feel like everyone knows what it’s like to be single in New York City now. You don’t even have to have done it, all you have to do is watch television or read books like this one, and you feel a familiar camaraderie with the author, yeah, I feel your pain sister.

But I don’t. I don’t feel your pain. I never wanted to live in New York and I still don’t and for some reason when I see or read something that is supposed to make me think that living in New York is the shit, the absolute end-all, be-all, my toes get all weird and curl under, my hands come to my head and scratch and I feel my brain ache. Stop talking to me. Stop talking to me people who think NYC is where all the coolness comes from. It’s not me. It’s never been me.

I think this reaction comes from living in Los Angeles, the dreaded West Coast red-headed step child. LA is supposed to be where the pretty is supposed to live. And people are pretty in LA. Totally. But those aren’t people. Those are Fembots.

But back to Sloane and ‘Cake’.

Strike Two. Against New York. I can’t handle.

Now faced with the bottom half of the book, the 150 pages ahead of me where the author can either make me feel better about all of this and I can walk away with a better understanding of why she had to do this to me in the beginning to get to a better place in the end. I do not feel like this will happen. I don’t trust it to happen, but I know I will ride out the remainder of ‘Cake’ and tuck it away in a bookshelf somewhere or give it to a friend so I don’t have to see it again. Not because of my complete hatred for it, as I do not hate this book, really, but because of the unsettling feeling it gives me.

I used to write personal essays. None of them include collecting ponies that signified relationships. None of them took place in New York City.

I was on the phone with my mother on Friday where she asked about the boyfriend and where he came from and what’s going on and I answered her questions honestly and succinct. She sounded pleased with my responses and her tone of voice came through showing her approval.

Until she busted out with: “Just make sure you’re making the right decisions.“

The conversation veered right off the Yellow Brick Road and into something right out of Nightmare on Elm Street.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Make sure you’re making the right decisions,” she said firmly with no humor whatsoever in her voice.

It was later on that it hit me that I seemed to have stopped writing because I’ve started making the right decisions.

At least ones that I believe are leading me in the right direction.

This has left me with very little to say as I live my quaint little life, work, sleep, eat, yoga. I’m not going to be writing personal essays about receiving a phone call at 3AM and heading out of my apartment in my pajamas to meet someone I know who is poison for me. I’m no longer going to have stories to tell about calling in sick to work because I still smell like tequila. I will no longer be peeing in the unisex bathroom at a gay bar looking at everyone’s penis’ because I can. I have not eaten questionable meat found in the fridge since I lived with Carleen and if that does not mark the beginning of the straight and narrow, I don’t know what does.

I’m all the more glad for it though. I’m relieved that all of that is pretty much over. I’m tired. I can’t do it anymore. It’s too much work to be in a shitty relationship. It’s a Herculean effort to stomach a tequila hangover these days. I’d rather sip my whiskey to stave off the winter chill that is July in San Francisco or consume enough beer to do the drunk foot shuffle straight to my bed to sleep off the crazy.

Strike three. Against…time. And life. And changes. It’s not Sloane’s fault that I am old and she is not. I’m left not liking her anecdotes because I’m no longer in my 20s making bad decisions. I’m no longer searching for some sort of identity, because I have one already. I know who I am. I know what I’m doing. I’m making a conscience effort to make the right choices because it makes life that much more easier. If I do not eat this ice cream bar I will be one step further from Type II Diabetes. If I do not consume this liter of Jameson in one night I will not throw up tomorrow morning. If I go to yoga, I feel better. If I eat at Burger King it will be Shitcapades 2008. If I talk to the ex, I’m asking for trouble and it’s too emotionally draining to deal with. I’d rather pour that emotion into things I love, like J., like my friends, like baking. I freaking love baking. It’s insane.

Look at the little man about to run into my mouth. It's all very "Quantum Leap" to me. Oh Sam Beckett...

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