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Look Alive Out There: Essays

Review

Look Alive Out There: Essays

Sloane Crosley is the author of two New York Times bestselling books of personal essays: I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE and HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER. Her third, LOOK ALIVE OUT THERE, does not disappoint. Crosley continues to deliver indelible tales filled with undeniable wit and uncanny wisdom. This latest collection is perfectly timed to release on the 10-year anniversary of her debut. Many of these 16 essays revolve around living in New York City, working as a writer, and coping with the oddities of everyday life.

LOOK ALIVE OUT THERE opens with the quintessential New York experience: hailing a cab. In “Wheels Up,” Crosley thinks she is being a Good Samaritan by giving up a cab to a disabled woman on a date, despite being late for the airport. She soon realizes that the cab is only meant for the able-bodied man. This experience allows her to make the observation that you cannot be handicapped by association and that this association does not entitle you to someone else’s cab. In “A Dog Named Humphrey,” Crosley details a more elite New York experience: starring on “Gossip Girl.” She lives this reviewer’s dream of spending time on the set of the hit television show and running lines with Ed Westwick, Kelly Rutherford and Matthew Settle. In addition to the celebrities, Crosley crosses paths with Humphrey, a stylist’s dog who is definitely not named after Lonely Boy.

"[Crosley] effortlessly manages to balance both the poignant and the funny, and consistently delivers one-liners that will make you laugh out loud and think critically long after reading."

Several of Crosley’s misadventures display the challenges of apartment living in New York City. When you find the perfect apartment, it is something to treasure --- even if your noisy teenage neighbor causes you to question your sanity. “Outside Voices” highlights the suffering Crosley endures at the hands of her neighbor, Jared, whose incessant chatting and endless partying drives her crazy. Her perseverance during this time demonstrates the lengths to which people are willing to go for a great apartment in the city. When Jared eventually leaves for college and his younger sister takes over terrorizing the neighborhood, Crosley is ready with floodlights.

In total contrast to Jared, Crosley tells the story of her previous neighbor, Don, whose garden overflows with champagne grapes over her window. In a not-so-great apartment, Crosley embarks on the rare journey of enjoying social interactions with her neighbor. Don keeps the vase outside her door filled with fresh flowers and exchanges funny gifts with her. When he suddenly dies in a traffic accident, she must come to terms with how to mourn the death of someone she only sort of knew.

From shopping at Rite Aid to helping swingers shop for a couple, we follow Crosley as she unexpectedly faces both the mundane and the bizarre. On one work assignment in “The Chupacabra,” she ventures to Vermont to write about the creature allegedly plaguing the state. She eventually finds herself at a local masseuse’s home where she watches a dog, Chartreuse, have a seizure through the hole of a message table. On another work assignment, Crosley is sent to Quito, Ecuador, to spend a few days experiencing the culture and writing about it. Instead of immersing herself in the culture of Quito as originally intended, she finds herself alone vomiting off the side of an active volcano. Before leaving for her trip, she describes her aversion to over-planning and under-packing, which leads her to suffer severe altitude sickness while trying to climb Cotopaxi.

From walking down a New York City street to climbing an active volcano in Ecuador, Crosley’s inclusive style brings the reader along with her on the mostly unplanned adventures of her life. She derives thought-provoking prose and social commentary from each essay while never failing to provide her signature charm and insight. She effortlessly manages to balance both the poignant and the funny, and consistently delivers one-liners that will make you laugh out loud and think critically long after reading.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubino on April 13, 2018

Look Alive Out There: Essays
by Sloane Crosley

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2018
  • Genres: Essays, Humor, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: MCD
  • ISBN-10: 0374279845
  • ISBN-13: 9780374279844