Sloane Crosley’s debut novel, The Clasp, is the result of a momentous leap of faith. “I fell backwards in a trust fall that worked, as opposed to landing on the gymnasium floor,” the author muses of the fateful juncture in her life.
Just shy of five years ago, Crosley numbered among that rare species of young adults in Manhattan who truly love their jobs, serving as the Associate Director of Publicity at Vintage/Anchor. “I really genuinely loved telling people what to read,” she gushes without irony.
Eventually, however, the temptation to put it all on the line and try her own hand at writing fiction after publishing two essay collections became insurmountable. “I quit without even starting the book, which was sort of a crazy thing, now that I look back on it,” Crosley admits. “But I was always toying with it; I knew eventually I wanted to do this….There’s some quote, I don’t know whose it is, but it’s something about most people have a novel inside them and it probably should stay there.”
The subject of jewelry ultimately came from a literary predecessor. “I was looking at my bookshelves one day and I picked up a copy of Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace and Other Stories. I’ve always loved short stories,” she recounts.
But despite the decision to base her first work of long-form fiction off of de Maupassant’s title work, she clarifies that the story doesn’t actually carry any special significance for her. “When you write an entire 300-page novel that’s roughly inspired by something, people tend to assume that it must be your most favoritest thing ever—that I read it every night and act it out. No.”
Rather, the story contains all of the ingredients Crosley had been seeking. “There’s something so perfect about it,” she says of the story about a woman who sinks herself and her husband into poverty for the sake of a piece of jewelry she has borrowed to impress others and improve her social standing. “It’s neat. And it struck me as surprisingly contemporary.
“Some of my favorite novels are based on works of art,” Crosley adds. “I love The Goldfinch. I love Bel Canto, The Dancer Upstairs. Not that I think I could Zadie-Smith-style anything.” She describes her own project as “not a retelling of the story; it’s more of a rough-cut tribute.”
The Clasp was thus born out of a happy confluence of literary precursor and organic musings. “I imbued three characters that were already clanging around in my head with the desires and plotlines of The Necklace,” Crosley explains. And she makes a tribute to the author himself: “I also overlayed the book with two specific references to Guy de Maupassant; he is, without speaking, in the book.”
The Clasp follows three postgraduate adults as they converge from their disparate worlds across the country, first at a mutual college friend’s wedding, and then later in an unlikely, shared quest for—you guessed it—a precious necklace.
The trifecta of hapless Victor, professionally frustrated Kezia, and morally vacant Nathaniel completes Crosley’s perfectly crafted strand. “It felt like a good combination when all three of them were in the mix, like a braid,” she says.
Each entity came about naturally to the writer; in fact, having spent years writing about them, she forgets they ever didn’t exist. “When you live with characters for five years, it seems like they were always there. Do you remember the day you first heard about astronaut ice cream? No, you just know what it is.”
Besides their shared alma mater, the three characters who now live disparate adult lives are united by their common senses of both anxious displacement and wistful longing for purpose. “All these characters have their hopes and dreams and heads in slightly the wrong place,” Crosley says.
The novel is about what holds individuals together after time wears away their initial obligations to one another. “The characters are at an age where they have the thought, ‘Okay, one more phone call and then we’re pretty much done, right? One more game of phone tag, one more birthday either that I choose not to go to or that I am not invited to, and then can we just call this?’ And yet these are people who once meant so much to you.”
The novel’s title, then, is not just an homage to de Maupassant, but also an important signifier of Crosley’s thematic intentions. “The clasp is the part of the necklace that is the foundation of what holds it together. There would literally not be a necklace without it; it would just be a thing that fell off your neck,” she says. She calls “this unglamorous thing…the bedrock of friendship and romance and finding out who you are.”
Breaking from the sobriety of a deep reading of textual symbolism, Crosley interjects: “Also, it’s a heinous word; I need to get that out. It’s really hard to say. It sounds like ‘the clap,” which is unfortunate.”
“Please note, Kirkus,” she assures, “there’s no VD in the book.”Lauren Christensen is a former assistant editor at Vanity Fair who is earning a graduate degree in Victorian literature at Oxford University.