BookBrowse Reviews Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

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Look Alive Out There

Essays

by Sloane Crosley

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley X
Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley
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  • Published:
    Apr 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Sloane Crosley's characteristic heart and punch-packing observations are back in Look Alive Out There, but with a newfound coat of maturity.

After a brief (and thoroughly enjoyable) foray into fiction (with her 2015 novel The Clasp), Sloane Crosley is back to the form her readers know and love best: the personal essay. Crosley is a former book publicist whose first book, I Was Told There'd Be Cake (2008), explored the indignities of working, dating, and simply surviving in New York City in one's twenties. Here in her new collection she continues to interrogate many of the same themes.

But there's a twist: Crosley, who was something of a wunderkind back in 2008, is now in her mid-thirties, and consequently several of these essays touch on – at least obliquely – growing up and growing older, while surrounded by a city that is still equal parts maddening and beloved.

In the collection's closing essay, "The Doctor Is a Woman," for example, Crosley goes to visit an "intuitor" (similar to a psychic) after she's convinced she's had a brush with the supernatural. The intuitor's immediate assessment – "You will have many children" – throws Crosley for a bit of a loop, and results in her decision to freeze her eggs, all the while acknowledging her deep ambivalence toward motherhood, and, well, toward children in general. Elsewhere, she acknowledges the passage of time through charming stories of her elderly neighbors and her elderly relative who was once an infamous porn star but now, when Crosley interviews him, is full of regret and relationship advice for her: "You don't just stop being who you are when you reach a certain age…The life you're living now is your actual life, the habits you have now are your actual habits." In other essays, her own physical frailty reminds Crosley of the body's failings, such as when she endures a crippling bout of vertigo or when she foolhardily attempts to climb a massive volcano despite having neither training nor the proper gear. And, in "Outside Voices," she takes on the role of neighborhood curmudgeon as she bemoans an entitled local youth and the loud company he keeps.

Crosley is at her best when she is making wry comments about the city she reluctantly loves – "It had occurred to me that murder was more of an option than moving. A true test of a New Yorker if there ever was one" – but she also excels at writing about what happens when a New Yorker ventures into unfamiliar territory, like northern California or southern France. An essay about a cameo on the TV show Gossip Girl may seem slightly dated at this point, but a harrowing (and awfully funny) account of having her website domain name held hostage by a ruthless "domainer" is all-too-relevant.

Some of the pieces here are mere vignettes, tiny moments of observation or connection that span only a page or two, while others resemble longer journalistic pieces in which, inevitably, Crosley herself is the hapless protagonist even as she investigates the capriciousness of modern life. Look Alive Out There is sure to satisfy the long-time fans of her witty, sardonic personal essays while her new maturity will also gain her new ones.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review is from the April 4, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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