A Comprehensive Analysis of I Was Told Thered Be Cake, a Book by Sloane Crosley

Topics: Cake

Just how good is this “Cake?”

“You’re going to have to choose an anthology and read it for class.” | questioned why the hell I was taking this class. Who purposefully chooses to read an essay, let alone a whole book of them?! As the list of anthologies was passed from student to student, no one really knew what to pick. None of us knew much about any of the authors, nor did we know much about the books themselves. So, I made a wise decision on how to choose my book: whichever had the coolest name.

Sloan Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake took the cake (hah). I mean, who doesn’t like cake? When I got home a few days later, I checked the mail, to find a copy of Crosley’s book. I nervously tore off the packaging. I had no idea what to expect. I opened to the first essay of the book. As most New Yorkers have done, I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day.

(“The Pony Problem”) After an introduction like this, I realized that maybe this project wouldn’t be as awful as I was originally expecting. After years of the literature classics (William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, etc.), I didn’t know what to expect from a class full of nonfiction. Stereotypically, nonfiction has a dry, dull tone.

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Ask a high school student what an essay is. Facts, statistics, purpose, and persuasion come to mind. When it came time to choose an anthology, I assumed they’d all be boring and fact-based, yet I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sloane Crosley writes with a light, comedic tone. Sometimes injecting sarcasm, she writes to imitate casual conversation. Reading one of Crosley’s essays feels like you’re having an intimate conversation, rather than reading a New York Time’s Bestseller that plenty of others have read.

Crosley writes in a way that we can easily listen to. In describing a scene among friends, Crosley writes: You don’t take much of a liking to Trevor. He winks a Justine, which is expected-half acknowledgment of bad behavior, half flirtation -who in turn apologizes to you for her boyfriend’s bad behavior. You who did not deserve to get winked at over this. You are neither a practicing lesbian nor have you ever had specific lesbian sex, namely with Justine. (“Smell This”) Crosley could take something as awful as a root canal and turn it into a thrilling, laughter-filled read. Crosley’s style of prose reflects what a younger, more modern audience wants to read. Your average 23 year-old is not looking to read a dry essay about quantum mechanics. However, everyday events plus Crosley’s lens gives you a book that’s sure to make your stomach hurt from laughter. American literary critic and theorist Robert Scholes claimed we must “open the way between the literary or verbal text and the social text in which we live” in order to better understand literature (Scholes). This requires us to really delve into a work of literature and go beyond the surface. First, we must look at who wrote the text. English teacher Bruce Pirie suggested that we look into a writer’s background to better understand why he or she writes in the way that they do (Pirie, 23).

Crosley, who is now 37 years old, wrote / Was Told There’d Be Cake in 2008 at age 30. A 30-year-old woman sees the world in a way different way compared to the authors who we’re used to reading. Growing up in a changing world helped give Crosley her more modern and unique perspective. In her essay “Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work- Day,” she describes her teenage years and a changing culture between the 1980s and the 1990s through the lens of a computer game. 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 when I knew she was weak. The program would attempt an intervention, informing me that I had enough buffalo carcass for one day. One more lifeless caribou would make the wagon too heavy, endangering the lives of those inside. Really now? Then how about three more? How about four? Nothing could stop this huntress of the diminutive plains. 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. (“Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work-Day”) As well as nearly dying of laughter after reading this essay, I found it rather relatable, too. Crosley’s writing style coupled with her content allows readers a look into her life and her experiences, through a comedic and warm lens. Back to Scholes’ point, we must also look at the interests of a text. After reading many of Crosley’s essays, the only interest I can find in her writing is entertainment. Is she successful in that regard? For a book like this, I believe a good scale is how often the reader finds himself or herself smiling or laughing while reading. I’d say a good 98% of the time I’m thoroughly enjoying myself when / Was Told There’d Be Cake is in my hands. Solid job, Sloane. 9.8 out of 10. I Was Told There’d Be Cake showcases 15 of Sloane Crosley’s essays. This is a great number, I believe, because it gives her a solid amount of space to develop her style among varied topics. In “You on a Stick,” she writes: I think husbands are like tattoos-you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, “I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now. I’II take a thory rose and a ‘MOM’ anchor, please.

No, not that one-the big one.” (“‘You on a Stick”) As is common in all of her works, Crosley tackles a common idea or activity, with a comedic spin. Here, Crosley gives us a look into her mind on marriage. She could’ve written, “While I do want go get married, I want to wait until I find the right man.” Instead, Crosley creates a metaphor, applying the entertaining thought of getting a tattoo to tying the knot. She compares a tattoo to a husband, pointing out that both are lasting, impactful decisions, so you better make a good choice. After a first read, I found myself scratching my head. But going back through, it clicked and I was actually laughing out loud. While philosophies about marriage typically don’t lead to uncontrollable laughter, Crosley has a way of giving just about anything a humorous spin. She does not lace her work with hidden, complex symbols and meanings because she doesn’t have to. She is able to give her work meaning and depth, using hilarious comparisons and vivid, funny imagery, all while making it understandable and relatable.

Should we consider Sloane Crosley’s writing “quality?” For me, “quality” writing is engaging. If a text is quality, you could stay up until 2 AM reading it and feel like you just hopped into bed. Quality writing is something we can connect to and understand, on different levels, as we’re reading it. Someone who defines quality writing as advanced vocabulary and textbook definitions of sentence structure, would be rather disappointed in Sloane. Not only does she write with words we actually know, that pesky, green line shows up every time I try to type in a quote from / Was Told There’d Be Cake. Her more conversational manner stretches outside of the normal format. She even uses the second-person point of view in her essay “Smell This.” Critic John Lethem wrote this about Crosley: Sloane Crosley is another mordant and mercurial wit from the realm of Sedaris and Vowell. What makes her so funny is that she seems to be telling the truth, helplessly. (Powell’s Books) Lethem writes positively of Crosley, pointing out that she is funny, even when just reporting simple truths. David Sedaris, who Lethem compares Crosley to, is known for his comical and conversational style. I believe it’s very fair to compare Sloane Crosley to David Sedaris. Crosley, however, does have a different lens that adds to her writing, as she’s younger and a female. On the other hand, David Foster Wallace’s writing is in stark contrast to Sloane’s.

Foster Wallace uses long, descriptive sentences that can go on for half a page or longer. He also tends to use footnotes to expand upon his points. He writes with a far more sophisticated, academic-level vocabulary, whereas Crosley likes to stick with words that would come up in an average conversation. It’s no secret that nonfiction typically gets a bad rap. As readers, biographies and lab reports jump to our minds. Sloan Crosley, in her anthology I Was Told There’d Be Cake, takes this common belief and hurls it off a cliff. Crosley writes with a voice and tone that draws the reader in immediately. She writes in a conversational manner, which makes it easier to understand her essays. Even as a nonfiction-skeptic, I’ve found myself sucked into her essays and able to read even her longest works rather quickly. To get a sense of Crosley’s unique style, I recommend reading “Smell This” or “Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work-Day,” as both strongly capture her prose style and tone in different, yet collaborative, senses. In hindsight, I guess sometimes judging a book by it’s cover has it’s rewards.


  1. Crosley, Sloane. “The Pony Problem.” | Was Told There’d Be Cake. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.

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A Comprehensive Analysis of I Was Told Thered Be Cake, a Book by Sloane Crosley. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comprehensive-analysis-of-i-was-told-thered-be-cake-a-book-by-sloane-crosley/

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