Sloane Crosley - 'Grief is for People'

Sloane Crosley - 'Grief is for People'


The cover for 'Grief is for People'.

The author’s best friend dies, grief ensues.

If this were a shitty book, that’d be it. It’s not.

I start shutting out friends. With some, I can’t stand to see my pain reflected in their eyes. There are craters in their timelines, as well, ancient holes in the shape of someone gone too soon. But I don’t want to be around more entrenched versions of myself. I barely want to be around this version. Others knew Russell the same way I did, worked with him too, spent those summers on his porch too. But we have all committed the sin of not being able to bring him back. Still others offer me pat wisdom that sounds as if it’s been vetted by general counsel. I can tell I’m being handled. They assure me I won’t feel like this forever. Oh, yeah? Everyone’s a psychic when you’re sad. With more casual connections, I’ve always held the watering can of our two-person garden and now I can put it down. If all it takes is one unanswered text to kill the friendship, then that’s all it takes. When a newer friend hears the news secondhand, she calls, but there’s a strange racket in the background. She’s bottling vinegar. Lots of vinegar. Unholy amounts of vinegar. I comment on the cacophony of glass, hoping she will take the hint. Is this the best soundtrack for the annals of a hanging? But the noise shows no sign of abating. She’s multitasking a condolence call. “I can’t do this,” I say, and hang up on her.

Crosley is a funny, human, and stylistically brilliant writer. She’s managed to push out short sentences that made me laugh and cry much like Randy Newman does in song lyrics.

The book starts off with Crosley describing being the victim of a burglary. Stuff gets stolen, but she doesn’t just take it lying down but instead starts a detective’s journey in trying to track down the stolen goods.

About her friend, they met when he became her boss:

I’d been working for Russell for five years, in the publicity department at Vintage Books, the paperback arm of the fabled Knopf, when I stumbled upon my own résumé in the back of a filing cabinet. He must’ve been seeing a lot of candidates for my job, because he’d scribbled in the margins: Long brown hair. Square ring.

I felt both chuffed and threatened by the other résumés pressed against mine—was there a world in which he thought we might not work out? On my pointer finger I wore the same ring, a square of tiger’s eye framed in silver, that he complimented the day he interviewed me.

As you see, her simple sentences are immersive and emotive: one of Crosley’s strengths is her ability to inject the reader’s senses while considering them to be intelligent. Nothing is spoon-fed to us.

Here’s one of my favourite funny parts of the book:

One afternoon, after we’d had lunch with an author I admired, I came back to my desk to find an e-mail from Russell: See below. Let’s discuss. I scrolled down:

Dear Russell: What a pleasure it was to meet with you and Sloane today. Please don’t say anything, but she seems a bit young to be handling my publicity campaign. Is there a way you can oversee her more closely?

I felt a hollowness expand in my chest as I tried to take in the lines. Russell appeared in my doorframe. “How should I respond?” he asked, unable to control his snickering. I took a closer look at the e-mail address, which was too obvious to be real. There was also a typo in the time stamp. “You’re an asshole.”

It dawned on us both that I could forward the e-mail to Human Resources. Russell dove for the delete key. I tried to block him, but he won, knocking over a full bottle of soda in the process. As we caught our breath, watching the soda drip over the cliff of my desk and onto a power strip, we realized the sent version of the e-mail was still on his computer. He darted down the hall. I ran after him, lunging and grabbing his ankle, and we both went flying onto the unforgiving office carpeting. I scraped my elbow. The tiger’s-eye ring scratched his cheek. “Children,” our boss greeted us as he passed, stepping over our prostrate bodies.

Crosley’s writing is boundless like grief. One second you laugh, the next, there’s something different.

The day before he died, a colleague gave him a framed poster of the original cover art for Edie. She found it while cleaning out her office. Russell hung it right away, going through the trouble of borrowing a drill from the maintenance department. Then he went home and never saw it again. If this is how Russell died, with forethought but also with a flick of the wrist (or what is known as “the impulsive act”), couldn’t it just as easily not have happened? Really, why couldn’t it not have happened? Why can’t we get back what’s lost?

Grief is timeless. Grief makes you fall out of time, to paraphrase Amy Lin.

Shortly before the pandemic, a former coworker had sent me an envelope she’d found in Russell’s desk. It was full of letters I’d written to him over the years on hotel stationery, some fancy, some from pads hardly worth the glue. I used to drop the letters off at various front desks, at ungodly hours, while on book tour. They had such life in them. They were written from a person who felt more definite, to a person who was, in the literal sense, more definite. They featured elaborate sketches of Marriott parking lots or read, simply, “Is that what you’re wearing today?” Now the letters lived in my desk drawer, in the apartment I never left. I was losing him and yet I couldn’t get away from him.

I strongly recommend this book. It’s written by a human being who’s showing their flawed self and themselves to be worthy of attention: the writing stands out and the book is well-structured; it’s got fine rhythm and a great feel to it. Finally: I love writers who don’t fear swearing.