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I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays Paperback – April 1, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 244 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This debut essay collection is full of sardonic wit and charm, and Crosley effortlessly transforms what could have been stereotypical tales of mid-20s life into a breezy series of vignettes with uproariously unpredictable outcomes. From the opening The Pony Problem to the hilarious Bring-Your-Machete-to-Work Day (which will ring true for any child of the early 1990s who played the first Oregon Trail computer game), Crosley is equal parts self-deprecating and endearing as she recounts her secret obsession with plastic ponies and the joys of exacting revenge via a pixilated wagon ride. In less capable hands, the subjects tackled—from unpleasant weddings of long-forgotten friends to horrendous first jobs—could have been a litany of complaints from yet another rich girl from the suburbs. But Crosley, who grew up in Westchester and currently lives in Manhattan, makes the experiences her own with a plethora of amusing twists: a volunteer job at the American Museum of Natural History leads to a moral quandary, and a simple Upper West Side move becomes anything but. Fans of Sarah Vowell's razor-sharp tongue will love this original new voice. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

For those for whom the publication of new work by David Rakoff or Sarah Vowell would be a literary event equivalent with the announcement of an eighth Harry Potter novel, the release of Crosley’s debut collection of keenly insightful personal essays should have similar impact. The New York Times, NPR, and Village Voice contributor’s take on everything from volunteering to vegetarianism, bridesmaid’s duties to baking disasters escorts readers on a raucous ride through the fluctuating minefield that is contemporary culture. Crosley’s sardonic observations have a sassy edge; her nimble humor, a naughty zing. Yet beneath her smug persona of “young woman about town” (that town being Manhattan) lurks another, more vulnerable image: that of sensitive “mall rat from suburbia” (the suburbs being Westchester.) Real and recognizable, Crosley’s is the voice of everyone’s favorite quick-with-the-quips sister, daughter, roommate, coworker. With an unabashed appreciation for the trenchant irony inherent in life’s more quotidian activities, Crosley exposes society’s—and her own—most endearing qualities. --Carol Haggas
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448306X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483066
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was drawn to this book because the pull quote on the cover said it was in the tradition of Sederis and Vowell. While I am glad I read it, it is not a must read. Crosley is talented but can be predictable and cliché. She lacks self-awareness. At the same time, she's terribly funny (she even pulls off mean funny), gutsy and admirably self-confident. She's best when she is honest and generous. I look forward to reading more of her work and watching her grow as a writer. As for this book, it would have benefitted from a tougher editor.
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Format: Paperback
While the writing is pretty good, and this collection of essays has its moments of cleverness, overall it's not as funny (by no means would I call it "hilarious") or interesting as hyped. The essays suffer somewhat from a steeping in twentysomething self-absorption/middle-class angst, and don't qualify for inclusion in the same league as David Sedaris and Dorothy Parker, because they lack a certain edginess. The stardard white-girl fare (first job, mean boss; being in a wedding), is, at times, mildly entertaining, but not particularly memorable. Bottom line: it's okay.
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Format: Paperback
I feel mean sayin' it, but it's true. I was all excited about curling up with this read after reading great reviews. I jumped ship after about 30 pages. It's not David Sedaris. It's not anything remotely as funny or interesting or insightful. It reminds me of a girl who goes out with you and your work friends and tells embarrassing stories about herself, and you laugh/wince, cause you're a bit drunk, and then, the next day, you feel kinda bad for her, like she exposed too much, and that she kinda needed the attention, and you're kinda embarrassed for her, even though she isn't. I lived in NY for a long time and these people are all over the place. This is her book.
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Format: Paperback
If you have American kids -- or may have them someday -- did you ever think of raising them in an interesting foreign country so they could come back as teens with a high coolness quotient? No? Would you send a Jewish ten-year-old to a Christian summer camp? and if you did, would you be surprised to hear that she played Mary in the "Christmas in July" pageant after the blond Girl from Darien was hobbled by a broken toe? Is there a collection of anything in your kitchen drawers, let's say toy ponies for example, that you worry about your mother finding if you die unexpectedly? and if so, would you dispose of them on a Brooklyn-bound subway train? Have you ever locked yourself out on moving day, from both old AND new apartments, requiring two expensive calls to the same sarcastic locksmith?

No? Then you're not like Sloane Crosley, the twenty-something author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake. This little book of wildly assorted essays is a kind of cubist blueprint for the young, well-off, well-educated New York woman. Crosley's writing is irreverent about her family ("I have never met two people more afraid of their house burning down than my parents") and particularly about her (we hope) well-disguised friends. She says of a pair of dinner guests: "Because there are no more hippies, you don't call them hippies. (But if you ever saw two people on a beach, gorging themselves on whole-wheat burritos and pot, picking sand out of each other's toes, and diving into the water naked, that would be them.)"

You may wonder whether you care about Sloane Crosley's observations on her short life to date. That's one question I can't answer for you.
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24 Comments 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I'm only giving this three stars because it really is a three star book. That said-- I expect that eventually she'll have quite a few five star books, as she has the talent-- it just isn't fully developed as of yet.

I was quite disappointed with the first few essays, and thought that maybe she was trying too hard. The essays are somewhat enjoyable, but she mixes a few too many clichés in with too few of her very original sentences.

But-- it was good enough to keep me reading, and I absolutely loved the "You On a Stick" essay about her being asked to be a bridesmaid in an old friend's wedding. Thoroughly enjoyable, and something many of us can relate to.

She's young and still finding her voice. My guess is that her next work will be an improvement and that we'll be hearing more from her.

She definitely is cool-- in that she is honest, and that she writes from her own perspective, not caring what might "sell."

This book to me, while disappointing overall, does show that she has the observational voice that we all love in the Sedarises and Burroughs of the world. Plus she has the ability to create unusual and entertaining phrases which you have to admire.

I'll definitely be watching her rise.
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Format: Paperback
While I felt that Crosley's quirky topics were mildly entertaining, I have to say I disagree with other reviewers that she has promise and talent. In my opinion, she is quite simply not a very good writer. I didn't even finish the book. She certainly doesn't belong among the ranks of great humorists like David Sedaris (the comparison being the reason I bought this book in the first place).
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