Welcome back Buzz Book Club readers! We're plugging along through Sloane Crosely's I Was Told There'd Be Cake, and there were many more moments in this week's stories that I laughed at and related to. At this point, I do think Crosley's got the goods — but perhaps with more life experience under her belt, her stories will be even more poignant.
Here's a recap of how the Book Club goes if you're new: Every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in July). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.
Of course, you are always welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this section.
The next assignment: Read the stories "Sign Language for Infidels" and "You on a Stick." We'll chat about this second section next Friday, July 18.
To discuss the second section of I Was Told There'd Be Cake, in which we read the stories: "The Good People of This Dimension," "Bastard out of Westchester," "The Beauty of Strangers," "F**k You, Columbus," and "One-Night Bounce,"
- "F**k You, Columbus" was the story that launched Crosley's career as a writer: She sent a version of it as an e-mail to several friends, one of whom happened to be an editor at the Village Voice who told her he would publish it if she just added an intro. Looking at it now, do you think it deserved that kind of treatment? Personally, I thought it was one of Crosley's weaker stories — but since so many other essays are substantially funnier, I wonder if that alone justifies the attention she got for the first one.
- "Bastard out of Westchester" touches on a feeling that my friends and I have felt from time to time: that growing up in suburban America leaves you without anything real to hold onto in terms of identity. I think Crosley could have taken that aspect further in the essay, though her personal story on its own was pretty poignant. Do you think there's something to the notion of having to work harder to construct your own identity in the world of "little boxes on the hillside," McJobs, and Wal-Mart?
- Crosley has kept the essays mostly focused on herself so far, with brief digressions to meet her parents or her roommates. But they're not fully fleshed-out characters, and sometimes I wish they would be, just to have a better sense of the people who shape Crosley's worldview. Do you wish you knew more about the other people in her life? Or, since the book is made up of personal essays, are you satisfied with them being purely personal?
- In a similar vein, I'm finding that while her essays are mostly about her and her alone, I don't have a super strong sense for who she is and what she's about, as a person. Do you feel like she shines strongly through these essays? And if so, do you like her as a "character," and as our narrator?
- One of the most relatable moments comes in "One Night Bounce" where Crosley recounts some things she misconstrued as a child — the nature of sex, "intensive purposes," etc. I'm not above admitting that it took me a while to know that the expression was "hold the phone," not "hold the foam," and that the sign on the road saying there was a "littering fine" didn't mean it was OK to litter. What were your best childhood misunderstandings?