The latest collection from the Manhattan-based essayist suggests she can write engagingly about nearly anything.
A decade after establishing herself with her bestselling debut, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Crosley (The Clasp, 2015, etc.) now finds herself addressing concerns and issues bordering on middle age, and she doesn’t like it. An early example of how many thematic levels she builds into an essay comes with “Outside Voices,” which seems, early on, to be about living in proximity to others, and then, more specifically, about “living on the most densely populated slip of land in America.” A lesser essayist would mine this for all it’s worth, but for Crosley, this is merely context for what comes to obsess her—the teenage boy next door and the family that entitles him to disturb the author’s personal space with his noisy outdoor social life. What really bothers her about him is his youth, which shows her how old she has become. So while the essay addresses the challenges and annoyances of overcrowded Manhattan, to the voyeuristic delight of readers who haven’t chosen to live there, it goes deeper into the universal ambivalence of realizing that you are no longer young and must seek out some type of second act as 40 approaches. As is typical in such collections, some essays are more ambitious and fully realized than others, but all work on multiple levels and all are sharply written, as Crosley continues to extend her impressive range. A writer writing about the writing life would not seem promising until she stumbles into a coven of pot-growing swingers who take the essay in an entirely different direction. An appearance on the canceled Gossip Girl might seem dated if it weren’t so perceptive on various levels of celebrity and the stereotypes that public figures adopt. The author’s closing essay on preserving her eggs is a marvel of ambivalence on ticking clocks and motherhood.
A smart, droll essay collection that is all over the map but focused by Crosley’s consistently sharp eye.