Sloane Crosley talked with Heidi Julavits about Look Alive Out There

By on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 at 9:03 am

Heidi Julavits spoked with Sloane Crosley with LOOOK ALIVE OUT THERE

Ten years have passed since Sloane Crosley debuted I Was Told There Would be Cake, her best selling collection of essays. Three years ago she launched her first novel, The Clasp, and last month she was at Greenlight to celebrate her third essay collection, Look Alive Out There. She was joined in conversation by Heidi Julavits.

Crosley’s essays are personal, but like all authors, there is a limit to how intimate a look into the author’s life the reader is allowed. The only litmus test Crosley relies on though is whether the inclusion of personal information is entertaining. “That doesn’t mean dark things are left out,” she says.

She describes a reference in the collection to her father’s cancer. Chemotherapy is a arduous and boring process. It isn’t entertaining. But she has a single anecdote about her father having been given a flower from a candy striper and saying, “nothing says you’re dying like a single daisy.” This is funny, but it isn’t enough to have an entire essay about cancer, she explains.

There are choices she makes about inclusion. What is appropriate for a memoir is not necessarily appropriate for a personal essay. She uses the term “confessional essay,” and then qualifies this by saying it wasn’t always a dirty word. There isn’t the same kind of through-line of memoir. She’s curating the personal essays to find those that are entertaining, and excluding material she isn’t.

The one thing she does exclude are the real names of many of the people who appear in the book–for legal reason. The one name she is most disappointed she had to change was a boy named Jared who lived behind her for while he was in high school. He constantly played loud music and made a raucous torturing Crosley and her neighbors.

Within the collection, Crosley says she doesn’t really fictionalize the events, although perhaps she ups the drama. In one instance, she writes about her domain name having been stolen, and the thief, who she interviewed, told her it seemed like she was being more dramatic than the incident was. From her end though, it certainly was dramatic, and traumatic–he had hijacked an email address she relied on for freelance work.

Subjects of her writing, including interviews, don’t often have the opportunity to respond to what she has written. The one exception she made was for her mother’s cousin, a star of pornographic films. She worried he would have a lot of concerns given how revealing the essay was both about him and about their family.

When her cousin told her he had some concerns, she was worried. Then he called, and he primarily took issue with a scene where Crosley had him eating melon instead of berries, much to her relief.

The internet bottom-feeder who stole her domain name? She offered only to change his name–but he declined.

“I don’t like to think of it as a spiteful or vengeful book,” she says.

Sloane Crosley and Heidi Julavits
Monday, April 23, 2018
Greenlight Fort Greene

English Kills Review is an online magazine covering books, authors, and writing with an emphasis on New York City. Founded in 2012, English Kills Review engages the literary community while highlighting noteworthy books and authors