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Buzz Book Club: I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley 2008-07-11 08:30:43

Buzz Book Club: I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Section Two

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,"


  1. "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.
  2. "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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
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adw7984 adw7984 9 years
-I personally didn't think "F**k You, Columbus"was one of her better essays. It was funny, don't get me wrong, but if I read that randomly I wouldn't think it was anything special. -From her essays, I really don't get a sense of who Crosley is either. She doesn't really talk about work, family, friends, or social life. I would like her to develop more....I would love to know what her parents are like. I don't know if I like her as a "character". She seems like a person I probably hated in college. I can't really elaborate on that (it sounds awful) but from what I've read I think I wouldn't like her. -Growing up, sex was a huge mystery to me. I did not understand it at all. "One Night Bounce" was very relatable to me because I had some of her same thoughts. That was actually my favorite essay because when we are younger we have such insane ideas of what things are! 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?
elizabee123 elizabee123 9 years
I'm reading this book, and I find it to be a total let down. At the end of each essay I find myself asking "And?". I also feel that she's trying too hard to be quirky, and the references feel forced. This was purchased by HBO, and is receiving loads of praise. I just don't get it.
Eppie22 Eppie22 9 years
This book is an excellent foray into the observational terrain currently occupied by *mostly* men (Sedaris, Eggers, etc.). I enjoyed it - for the most part - but, at times, - it seemed to me that she was trying too hard to be weird. If you're weird - you're weird - but nothing is worse than forced weirdness. Anyone who is weird can tell when weirdness is forced. The "one night stand on the bed with a martini" - that's forced. The drawer of plastic ponies - that's perfectly weird.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
OK, I concede that there's value in dissecting the mundane, I do. I just wonder if she tried to elevate the mundane to heights that made it a little dizzy. And no viciousishy here. And isn't that soup? :feedme:
colleenb colleenb 9 years
Oh! I didn't know y'all were reading this book. I vaguely remember it now since I read it all of three months ago, but I found her relatable and all that. As in good to know you're as weird as me, actually weirder! But that's her schtick. I loved the Ursula's Cookie story, particularly when she sprinkled sugar all over the green, marijuana-leaf cookie for her boyfriend to acknowledge his evolving use of substances. Honestly, that's the part of the book I remember best. Also, when she says "Oh, the humidity!" I realize this is a horrible critique of a book. I always say I don't read for plot so I am hardly a good a person to defend Citizen's viciousishy (j/k!) claim that nothing happens. She has an engaging way of talking about her inner life and I devoured it.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
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. Yes! I found this pretty pervasive — and not just a dearth of her character which though it might not have stood out, it did sort of leave it's shallow-mixed-with-mean dusting of goo all over my fingers like I'd been eating Cheetos — but that the plot of each piece highlighted that absence. The events she's writing about, when you get to the end you feel full, but can't remember what you ate. Like the One Night Bounce. So she's trying to have a one-night stand? And doesn't? Is that a strong enough narrative to hang the essay on? I just kept waiting for events to happen in the chapter that were outstanding or worth examination. Maybe that's what she was waiting for too--and just gave up and wrote it anyway. But that's not to say I didn't read the whole book in one sitting like a terrible glutton.
sweetstanzy sweetstanzy 9 years
I've just been reading this, and I've really enjoyed it. Many of the parts on her career hurdles rang too true.
CAcyclegirl CAcyclegirl 9 years
Haha - when I was little I thought the song "Secret Agent Man" was "Secret Asian Man."
Megatron Megatron 9 years
“F**k You, Columbus” was entertaining, but not her best. I liked some of the stories from last week better. Maybe because I found myself relating to the previous stories a little more. In high school, we all have this notion that people who have lived outside “the norm” are way cool. I’ll admit it; I was like that as well. Yes, people might have to work harder, but I think it’s worth it in the end to live one’s own life instead of falling in line. Sorry, my wanna be punk came out just then :) I think a little more detail would be fine, but not much. She gives enough for her stories to be relatable so that much suits me just fine. If the stories are about her, the bulk of the details should be that way as well. Just my two cents. Yes, these stories seem to be a mishmash of different things that happened to her but I do see her personality a little bit. I get that she is witty, a little insecure, but generally able to handle things on her own. As a narrator, she is awesome. Definitely entertaining. As a “character” I agree, she needs a little more development. I am trying to think of some childhood misunderstandings. I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Let me email my parents :)
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