Sloane Crosley’s debut collection of essays is the kind of book that causes deep bouts of guilty recognition almost as often as it induces laughing out loud. Crosley’s essays are self-deprecating and self-obsessed, written with a style reminiscent of David Sedaris but with a voice that’s all her own. Chronicling her disasters more often than her successes, Crosley relates everyday abilities like constantly losing her wallet and locking herself out of two different apartments on moving day, plus more specialized skills at ruining weddings and investigating unexpected “presents” left on her bathroom floor after dinner parties. The best of these is “Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work Day,” about the ancient computer game The Oregon Trail, and Crosley’s subversive playing style:
Like a precursor to the Sims, you were allowed to name your wagoneers and manipulate their destinies. It didn't take me long to employ my powers for evil. I would load up the wagon with people I loathed, like my math teacher. Then I would intentionally lose the game, starving her or fording a river with her when I knew she was weak… It was time to level the playing field between me and the woman who called my differential equations "nonsensical" in front of fifteen other teenagers. Eventually a message would pop up in the middle of the screen, framed in a neat box: MRS. ROSS HAS DIED OF DYSENTERY. This filled me with glee.
I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a reminder that our best intentions frequently lead to our most shameful failures, and that often, when we are at our pettiest, we’re simply being ourselves. Like it or not, these are the moments that define us too. Luckily, Crosley knows how to make us laugh, not just at her but also at ourselves, taking some of the sting out of the often-overwhelming self-recognition her essays are sure to engender.