Sloane Crosley’s “signature wit is sharp as ever” (NYT) in The Clasp, her debut novel. From carrot forests to Maupassantian necklaces, Sloane shares the genesis of her reading and writing.
Would you say you have an ideal reader?
I’m so grateful for my readers, I’m not in a position to put up velvet ropes. Mostly the answer is any reader who connects with the tone of my writing and therefore trusts me. It’s important to feel like you’re in good hands when you read a book, especially a novel. Beyond that? Someone creative who sees the emotions behind the humor, who wants to get to know other people, who is looking to see the tiny corners of the world differently. A snappy dresser. Light sleeper. Tall but not too tall. Type O blood, obviously. The universal donor.
What’s the earliest memory you have of writing a story?
I was diagnosed with a spatial learning disability when I was little and my parents went into overdrive, trying too hard to help me with every little thing. So I wrote my first story mostly to get these well-meaning baby boomers off my back. It was about a family of rabbits who go into the forest to bring back carrots for their youngest rabbit. Everything is very cute. Then one day the parents get shot by a hunter and the baby rabbit starves because it can’t fend for itself. Carrot forests, as we all know, are mystifying and dangerous places.
What book would you consider an ancestor of The Clasp and why?
The Guy de Maupassant short story, “The Necklace” is in the bones of the book. If readers are looking for a 380-page bloated retelling of an old French short story (who isn’t?), they won’t find it. Instead, each of the three main characters roughly follows the plotline of the story, one of them becomes obsessed with Guy de Maupassant and sees him as a great symbol of manhood, there are two necklaces, both possibly real, both possibly fake, and a large portion of the book takes place around the are of Normandy where Guy grew up. So the DNA of Guy and “The Necklace” is all over The Clasp in various forms, even and obviously in the title. Of course, Guy de Maupassant is very dead so I can’t speak to his enthusiasm about having me as a “descendent.” But the man had such a massive ego; he’d be flattered at the very least.
What’s one book you’ve tried to finish but couldn’t?
The concept of “trying” but failing to finish a book is an odd one. I know what it means—a slog of a book, an impenetrable book—but if you try, you’ll succeed. See also: “I’ll try to make it to the party.” I mean, if you really tried to make it, what could have gone so horribly wrong? You walked down the subway steps and some big burly stranger pushed you back up? There are hindrances (trapped in a dull conversation) and there are hindrances (locusts). This is all to say that I finish the books I actually attempt to finish. I had trouble getting through Middlemarch — you may have to revoke my femininity for that one. Moby Dick I only skimmed despite my efforts to concentrate (take my masculinity while you’re at it). I’ve never read Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake but I have a feeling those are some big burly strangers. The rest I’ve either finished—chapters that lag or confuse tend to be temporary—or put down the second I didn’t want to try. God knows what I’ve missed.
What’s the last book that made you cry?
My most recent instance of crying from a book was rereading “White Angel” by Michael Cunningham. That last line kills me every time. I was inexplicably inconsolable after The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I cried several times during What is The What by Dave Eggers. I cried at the end of Project X by Jim Shepard. I cried during Blue Nights by Joan Didion and The Book of My Lives by Aleksander Hemon and The Long Goodbye my Meghan O’Rourke. I’m okay. Really, I am.
What’s your favorite indie bookstore? What’s the most recent book you’ve purchased?
Three Lives wins for geographical reasons (it’s two blocks from my apartment) but I have a feeling it would win for greatness reasons as well. It’s the most warm, inviting, assuring and unintimidating place. And yet you walk in and know that you’ll be walking out with something smart to read. The staff has impeccable taste. I mean, this is true of all independent bookstores so it’s tough say what makes Three Lives so special. Walking past their display windows at night feels like walking into a New Yorker cover. Maybe that’s it. The last books I purchased there were Old Filth by Jane Gardam and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.*
*Rookie move. I’m pretty sure I could have wrangled you guys into sending me that one for free.
Sloane Crosley is the author of the New York Times bestsellers I Was Told There’d Be Cake (a Thurber Prize finalist) and How Did You Get This Number. A frequent contributor to The New York Times, she lives in Manhattan.
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Photograph by Caitlin Mitchell