Literary Event of the Week: Sloane Crosley at Elliott Bay Book Company

Sloane Crosley's ascent from book publicist to popular literary humorist is well-documented, though it's not exactly unbelievable - if you want to write books, why wouldn't you get a career working with books? But still, her stint as a book publicist is a part of the mythology of Crosley. Can you believe it?, people seem to be asking when they recount Crosley's biography, she went from writing…shudder….press releases to writing comedic essays!

For me, the unbelievable part of Crosley's story came after her first book of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, was published. She ascended from basically an unknown to a literary celebrity overnight. It's as though Crosley effortlessly landed, fully formed, in the pantheon of literary humorists alongside David Sedaris and Dorothy Parker. Her talent didn't seem to require any unfurling or practice runs: immediately, she displayed a real skill for humor. The rhythm and cadence of comedy came naturally for Crosley, and she wrote like she was born to make people laugh.

I enjoyed Crosley's first novel, The Clasp, which was a wry and observant study of friendship. But I'm thrilled that her latest book, Look Alive Out There, is a return to the form that made her name - comedic essays. The pieces in this book reflect on the smallest facets of human experience, from the unique challenges of living on top of neighbors in dense urban areas to the expectation of performative do-gooderism when confronted with a moral dilemma in public.

Crosley's gifted at finding the killer line, which perfectly summarizing a situation. Here she is, falling in with friends who are into enneagrams:

One night after work, I go over to their apartment so they can figure out my personality number. This is a fantastically indulgent exercise, like a four-handed massage or group therapy in which only one person's problems are addressed.

Here she is, being sent by a magazine to investigate a chupacabra sighting in Vermont:

I am a less-than-ideal candidate for the job. I don't specialize in mythical-creature hunting or even run-of-the-mill hunting. But the unspoken part of the enterprise is not to find the chupacabra, but to find myself instead, to make a larger point about the power of the imagination, to discover a tick on my shin after traipsing through the woods. Won't that be fun?

This Friday, Crosley debuts Look Alive Out There at Elliott Bay Book Company. She'll be funny and charming and self-deprecating and hearing her read her stories in her own voice will likely make the stories even funnier than they are on paper. You're guaranteed to laugh; she's a natural at this.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600,, 7 pm, free.