It was a trading places moment book publicist SLOANE CROSLEY became a New York media darling last fall. With the release of her first book of personal essays, I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE, people went a little nuts for all things Sloane — including us after we spotted the Diorama Diaries section on her Web site.
It was like a budget, DIY-version of our childhood dollhouse, but much more thoughtful and intricate. Paper clip hangers! We spent hours studying those images and chuckling to ourselves. We wanted to play with them in real life. We wanted to make some that featured scenes from our lives!
To put it politely, we were a tad obsessed. Reading Sloane’s book made her feel like one of our good friends; and those are the people who we usually bug for good book recommendations. That’s why we’ve asked her to give us the names a few of her favorite essayists.
Sloane’s picks after the jump.
DAVID RAKOFF – All Canadians are inherently funny. How can you live your life next to such a freakish superpower and not have a sense of humor about it? But I do feel comfortable saying that David Rakoff is my favorite gay Canadian essayist. Just to go out on that maple limb. DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE is a wonderful look at our indulgences but FRAUD is still my favorite. I can even tell you the exact moment I fell madly in love with Rakoff — it’s at the start of one of the essays in Fraud where he describes a cheese dip as being a florescent orange color which signifies “I’m poisonous, don’t eat me” when found in nature.
DAVID SEDARIS – I met David Sedaris once in college at a B&N reading, just after ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY had come out. I knew nothing about him, was totally unfamiliar with BARREL FEVER or his NPR stuff, but he read from the essay in which he and Hugh are on the Paris metro and some American tourists start talking about him in front of his face, as if he’s a pick pocket. From this particular essay sprung such gems as “that’s pure French, baby” and “I bet this guy has a partner somewhere on the train.” I think edginess is easy to achieve in humor essays but heart is incredibly difficult. And his humor has such sweetness and charm to it, like one of the nice New Yorker cartoons about dogs or children.
MEGHAN DAUM – This is a woman who taught me I could get away with murder if I was slick enough about it. I mean, who writes an essay about her aversion to wall-to-wall carpeting and, quite literally, lives to tell the tale? But this is the vibe of Meghan Daum: there’s a familiarity to her work and I am fascinated with her skill. I love the way she digs so deeply in the minutia of life and pops back out the other side with universal insight. In addition to respecting her work — fiction as well — I truly believe that she helped my own book find the right audience. Without MY MISSPENT YOUTH, I think I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE would likely have been pegged as “chicky” by the press about 50 percent more than it was.
A.A. GILL and GEOFF DYER – Very different essayists in many ways but both have a wicked British humor. Hence they are the recipients of a single shout-out (it’s a small country). With both there’s a sense stunt journalism, even when there’s no stunt. Even when the stunt is getting out of bed in the morning. With Gill, there’s also a satiric cruelty and a casual contempt for the Welsh that I find endearing, having lived in Scotland. And Geoff’s work has such a wonderful curiosity. OUT OF SHEER RAGE deserves it’s own separate tribute, but in YOGA FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO DO IT, Geoff makes it look easy. Without being put off by it, you can instantly sense how vast his intelligence is and watch him draw on it in the most creative ways.
GEORGE SAUNDERS – I suppose, technically, Saunders writes essays. I know because there’s a little label on the back of some of his books instructing the stores to shelve him under “essays.” But they feel more like insane dream sequences. The kind of dreams where you wake up the next morning describing giant donuts and menacing staple removers and places that are “like my high school but, you know, not.” So in addition to being a visual orgy, his observations about contemporary politics feel wonderfully spot-on in a way that nothing else does. Like Sedaris, he pulls off the lovable but sharp trick very well. Growing up we used to give our dog his medicine in apple sauce. THE BRAINDEAD MEGAPHONE is very much like a giant spoonful of crushed fruit and aspirin.