Look Alive Out There – Sloane Crosley

★☆☆☆☆

Like Sloane Crosley’s other two books, this is a collection of essays about her life (although I think she’s also written a novel?), reminiscent of David Sedaris. The only problem is when I’m reading these stories, I feel like I’m intruding on her personal space — like she doesn’t want me there.

At the beginning, it was fine. She wrote about the time she had a walk-on role on Gossip Girl (which was interesting, although I’ve never seen the show), and there were enough other people in the scene so that I didn’t feel weird. Then she wrote about going on vacation (lovely) and climbing a mountain in South America with some guys she didn’t really like (tense), and then got altitude sickness (I wanted to help, but I was in the way). 

Toward the middle, she holed up in her apartment, her neighbor died, and she got vertigo (not related to the neighbor). We didn’t interact with any other people, and she wasn’t talking to me. I felt like I was sitting in the corner of her living room pretending to be invisible, like I’d been invited in earlier, but missed my graceful exit. But she knew I was there and planned exactly which button to push to get me out of her space.

She’s all, “I don’t necessarily want kids, but I’m not gonna go telling people I hated baby dolls or anything” (paraphrasing) and I thought, whoa — I didn’t like baby dolls and I don’t want kids. It doesn’t have to be like this, Sloane. And then she said, “I’m not one of THOSE women who’s scared to have kids or just doesn’t want one — I mean COME ON, GROW UP.” And my gloves came off. Ok listen! You’re making this unnecessarily personal! Some people have other issues going on, and it’s not because I haven’t “grown up” or I’m trying to poop all over your personal standards. Maybe there are medical issues involved, or phobias, or maybe some people weren’t raised in an environment that’s conducive to actually raising a viable human being.

Okay, maybe I’m not being totally fair. She doesn’t know me, and she’s just writing her own feelings (as I’m doing now). But I’d gone through the last half of the book getting more and more annoyed with this narrator as a character, and the last chapter was the last straw. I don’t remember what the concluding sentence was, but when I read it I thought, “man, go fuck yourself!” and threw it on the ground.

I didn’t have this reaction to her first two books of essays — in fact, I liked them a great deal (which is why I read this one). Your milage may differ, but I can’t recommend this book. Start with “The Pony Problem” in  “I Was Told There’d Be Cake“.

Flash Forward Podcast

★★★☆☆

Flash Forward takes an idea we have for the future (food pills, a world without bees, California becoming its own country, etc) and explores the plausibility of it. I love the idea of imagining futuristic scenarios (who doesn’t want an animal translator?), but some of the episode topics aren’t my cup of tea (a super computer that creates the ultimate religion).

Most of the episodes are great “info-tainment”, and it gives me good memories of the bleak, but wonderful year of 2016 when I started listening to the show and used it as a way to calm down. I’d just moved to a new country (Scotland! It’s so nice!), but my husband hadn’t joined me yet, and my own baby oven said, “since you’re not growing something in here, I will,” and it was tumors. This podcast, among others, gave me something to focus on and look forward to when I didn’t want to be in my own body anymore. 

Because of its speculative and science-y nature, I would compare Flash Forward to Science VS (which explores how scientifically accurate a certain idea is – like if essential oils really do what they claim) or Imaginary Worlds (which takes sci-fi/fantasy ideas in fiction and analyses why our brains accept something that’s clearly not true).

Overall, I like this podcast and I recommend it.

You can listen to Flash Forward on their website, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.