Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“Hippie nutballs who looked at Portland, Oregon, and thought, This is way too urban; I have to get out of here.”

How Did You Get This Number: Essays by Sloane Crosley

FIRST of all, as far as cover art goes, this book wins. Who doesn’t want to read something with a very, very concerned looking bear on the front? I know I do. And so I did.

Sloane Crosley is hilarious in that new-agey David Sedaris/Dave Eggers/Chuck Klosterman way that I eat up like the spiced pumpkin-gingerbread that’s finally back in stores. Sedaris even writes a recommendation on the back of the book. Like AHWOSG, the chronology in this book was kind of hard to follow, but that could have just been because of my goldfish attention span. Either way, I don’t really care, because it’s hilarious anyway. Her writing is snappy and self-aware and a little self-deprecating but never, ever pathetic; it’s a whimsical narrative-essay (i use that made-up term loosely) littered with snippets of undeniable truth that may or may not be relevant to anything (i.e. Does it matter how quickly the Portuguese speak? Probably not. Is it a speed worth noting? Sure. On the other hand: is her reflection on having a learning disability a little heartbreaking? Totally. But it’s also funny, so I don’t feel like I’m reading a Nicholas Sparks novel. Not to shit all over him, because I happen to love the film adaptations of both The Notebook and A Walk To Remember–but there’s a time and a place for such plot lines; literature is not the place. I need Ryan Gosling and Shane West to pull me into the emotional fray). I digress. This book is great. Sloane Crosley is charming and funny and hip, and I want to be her friend, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be cool enough. So it goes.

ONWARD!

“To my parents. For everything.*

*Everything except the two-week period in 1995 directly following the time you went to Ohio for a wedding and I threw a party in the house, which is the most normal thing a teenage American can do, aside from lie about it, which I also did, and Mom eyed me suspiciously for days, morphing into a one-woman Scotland Yard, marching into my bedroom with a fistful of lint from the dryer to demonstrate that I had mysteriously washed all the towels, and then she waited until we were in a nice restaurant to scream, “Someone vomited on my couch, I know it!” and Dad took away my automotive privileges straight through college so that I spent the subsequent four years likening you both to Stasi foot soldiers, confined as I was to a campus-on-the-hill when I could have been learning how to play poker at the casinos down the road and making bad decisions at townie bars. I think we can all agree you overreacted.

For everything except that, I am profoundly grateful. I have only the greatest affection for you now. Also: I vomited on the couch.”

“A human being can spend only so much time outside her comfort zone before she realizes she is still tethered to it.”

“There was a time when your favorite color transferred from purple to blue to whatever shade it is when you realize having a favorite color is a trite personality crutch, an unsubtle cultivation of quirk and a possible cry for help.”

“Besides, a new decade is a chance to find oneself at the beginning of things. Oh, life. What a sweet little Etch A Sketch of time you are!”

“I wondered: did I speak English at the same speed they spoke Portuguese? It seemed unlikely. You know, I wanted to tell them, Portugal and Brazil may be the only hubs of your tongue in this world, but this is a language that’s out there. I mean, it’s around. The chances of there being more Portuguese to speak tomorrow are very good. No need to get it all out now.”

“Things were better during my genius years. I was eighteen months old when my mother found me in the living room with a pile of building blocks–counting and spelling as I stacked them. This wunderkind behavior continued, and as it is with oddities in children and the mothers who birthed them, mine called in a medical professional…

While my parents doted on me, overzealously plying me with brain food and brainteaser games, a healthy case of the stupids kicked in, offsetting my block-building brilliance.”

“But that’s the thing. A learning disability doesn’t exactly qualify as an emergency. It’s a subtle problem for everyone except the person who has it. Standing in the middle of the aisle with the shoppers buzzing around me, I told myself I would trade breaking a bone just once rather than continue with a lifetime of this crap. Because at least with a broken bone you get a cast or a sling. people see your problem coming. But how do you explain an eighteen-year-old trapped and teary-eyed in front of a pile of seasonal gourds? Where is her excuse?”

“It’s not a disability, it’s life. We are complicated creatures with larger matters on our plates than tip calculation. I grew up watching TV with my mother while she diagnosed the characters as having hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder. I rolled my eyes and wondered why here weren’t any stupid kids anymore. Why did there have to be something to explain everyone? Were the cave people on Ritalin? I don’t think so.”

“So I turned to the mecca of desperation, the Internet.”

“It is impossible to be angry and write fake museum-exhibit copy at the same time.”

“I thought of how strange it is to follow anyone up the stairs. Your face is so close to their butt. It’s one of the unsung pleasures of riding inc abs–I have seen very little cabbie ass in my life. Whereas my fellow subway riders’ cheeks are thrust, shifting back and forth, in front of me every day, countless as stars.”

“It’s never good to fall in love with someone whom you’d have to stab in the eyeballs to elicit a response.”

“It’s why I was never comfortable with night-lights. They were unnatural. Plus, if they worked for me would they not also work for the eighteen-eyed monster hiding in the closet? Bitch has eight eyes. She can see a night-light. Best to level the playing field.”

“Here is a list of the six types of Alaskan residents, not including native tribes: 

1. Military personnel
2. State-builders
3. Nature enthusiasts (by which I mean raw, in-your-face nature; bird-watching is for house cats)
4. Hippie nutballs who looked at Portland, Oregon, and thought, This is way too urban; I have to get out of here.
5. People who have at one point done something very illegal involving a sawed-off shotgun and freezer bags
6. This guy:

When I boarded my flight to Anchorage in Chicago, I went to wedge my trashy magazines into the polyester pouch in front of me. There was something more substantial than usual in there between the SkyMall catalog and the safety card. It was a library book. I was intrigued. It was like finding an abandoned toy in a random bathroom stall, but less creepy. I let the pocket snap shut before opening it again. On the spine in big, bold letters, it read: The Amityville Horror: A True Story. Nope, just as creepy.

Passengers were still streaming down the aisle, clutching their boarding passes and looking above the seats, as if trying to remember the alphabet. I quickly shoved the book into the pouch to my right and tried to forget about it. My seatmate turned out to be a state-builder Alaskan. His grandfather had a small bay named after him. He was on his way home to visit his mother, who made custom shotgun cases.

“She does not.”

“Well, no”—he looked at me thoughtfully—“she doesn’t make the cases themselves, but you should see what she does with them.”

I imagined this man’s mother in a floral muumuu, beating the shit out of a sea otter on the front porch.

“We are only as good as our most extreme experiences”
[on Sarah Palin:] “the worst Alaskan PR tragedy since Jewel started publishing poetry or–as even Earl put it–“the time that moron walked into the woods to die in a bus.” Each time Palin winks at the world, one of my Alaskan friends feels a deep pang of shame.”
“People tend to be more tofu-like, able to absorb whatever environment they’re dropped into. But where does the adaptability end and your actual personality begin?”

I did not make this drawing. I found this drawing! And I think Sloane Crosley would approve of this drawing.

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