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Excerpt from Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Cult Classic

A Novel

by Sloane Crosley
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  • First Published:
  • Jun 7, 2022
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2023
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Print Excerpt


Our dinner was winding down in Chinatown when I got up to get cigarettes. This was more about giving myself something to do than satisfying a craving, unless you count the desire to take a break from other people as a craving. I don't smoke, not officially. A significant portion of my friends would express surprise to see me smoking at all. I also never smoke the whole thing, opting to leave a trail of crushed paper flutes in my wake. I sometimes wonder how this aborted indulgence reads to the naked eye, aside from registering as litter. I fantasize about other people's fantasies, about cars that arrive earlier than expected, sweeping me off to some glamorous event. Sometimes I go darker. I think of kidnappings, of vans, of men in ski masks tossing me behind a steel partition. The traces of saliva on the filter—this is how the identifications will be made. Alas, the unlikelihood of being yanked off the street in downtown Manhattan kind of declaws the idea. But it beats vaping.

"What kind?" asked Vadis, tearing herself away from Zach too easily.

Her face was flush. She put an elbow on the table, triggering a little earthquake in her wineglass. Gold bangles slid down her arm, chasing after each other until they became one. Zach reached for his phone in an attempt to claim his own distractions.

"The ones with the nicotine in them."

"Oh," she said, somehow disappointed.

What kind. What a meaningless question. Cigarettes are not seasonal and Vadis didn't smoke. Though she'd always been brimming with meaningless questions, asking what time meetings to which she wasn't invited began, if I knew a long-dead psychiatrist's contact information, if B. F. Skinner had pets, if "we" had an angle on this emotional intelligence feature, if I had any double-sided tape. Who, in the history of the world, has ever had any double-sided tape? Then she'd sigh over my desk after I told her I couldn't help her, drumming those aristocratic fingers on my monitor as if her standing there would produce a better answer. The longer she stood, the more insulting her presence became. This was Vadis's way of suggesting she knew other people's minds better than they did.

"I once read this article in Harper's," said Zach, eyes still fixed on his screen, "about people who did all sorts of crazy shit on Ambien. They woke up in the corner of the room or boiled their underwear. This one woman, she buttered her cigarettes and ate them."

"Harper's published this?" I asked.

"Somewhere," he said. "Cautionary tale."

"That's not a story about cigarettes," Vadis corrected him, combing her hands through her hair, "it's a story about Ambien."

"Or butter," I offered.

"It's a story about the confluence of desire."

"Don't say desire," she scolded him.

"An orgy of vices then."

She looked at him hard.

"Really don't say 'orgy.'"

"The woman probably crushed up the pills and rolled the cigarettes in them," Zach muttered.

"What?!" Vadis hissed.

"Like Mexican corn."

"No one knows what you're talking about."

"Lola knows."

"You guys can leave me out of this if you want," I said.

How did these people wind up being my people? I'd had other friends before them, had I not? It was hard to remember. After Modern Psychology folded, it was as if a starting pistol had been fired and we scattered to separate corners of the professional universe. Vadis went to a "bedding and lifestyle" company run by a socialite (the arbitrary delineation between "bedding" and "lifestyle" amused us all), running their events and producing their content (blog posts with headlines like "Thread Count On Me" and "Bath Bombs to Detonate Calm"). Her work complaints centered around her flighty, impetuous, presumptive boss, traits I associated with Vadis herself. It was therefore difficult to tell if the socialite was a real problem or if Vadis was unaccustomed to engaging her mirror.

Excerpted from Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley. Copyright © 2022 by Sloane Crosley. Excerpted by permission of MCD. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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