A friend of mine recently took a short business trip. Before leaving town, she confessed worries about “the mess we would leave behind” should she and her roommate die in a plane crash. The worry often comes up in e-mails, prior to her trips. This time, trying to lighten things up, I mentioned Sloane Crosley’s pony problem. It’s the topic of Crosley’s first essay in the hilarious 2008 collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake.
Leaving her New York City apartment, should Crosley die in some tragic accident (“Say someone pushes me onto the subway tracks.”), her loved ones will find an embarrassing mess of clothes and dust balls in her apartment. Worse, in the drawer beneath the kitchen sink, her mother will find her stash of plastic toy ponies.
“…there is that flash of my mother dressed in black, staring aghast into the open kitchen drawer. In a city that provides so many strange options to be immortalized by the local tabloids, it is just as important to avoid humiliation in death as it is in life. … ‘Look!’ my mother would howl, picking up Ranch Princess Pony (with matching bridle and real horseshoe charm necklace!) by her fax flaxen mane. Just before she passed out.”
Crosley posted a YouTube video about the pony problem. She takes us on a tour of a diorama she created to illustrate it. I Was Told There’d Be Cake is not a new release but, having come off two dark books let alone my friend’s doom and gloom e-mail, I’ve been thinking about books that made me laugh. Crosley’s hits the top of the list, as do these two all-time favorites:
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
This classic memoir about the famous, literary Durrell family relocating to Corfu is told through the 10-year-old eyes of Gerry, who brings his animal friends into the house. The craziness that ensues is very funny. The book originally was published in 1956. The New York Times wrote (as the quote appears on the back of my Pengin Books paperback), “A lot of frolic, fun, and charming ribaldry, as well as the warm feeling of having been transported to a lovely spot where worry is unknown and anything is believable.”
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
I was reading the first two pages of this detective novel to a friend but was laughing so hard I couldn’t get the words out. The detective Lionel Essrog, working in Brooklyn, suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, and it’s his uncontrolled barking and shouting at the wrong time that make for twisted, smart humor. Note: I recommended this National Book Critic’s Circle winner to one friend who loved it and a few times kept saying “Recommend another book like Motherless Brooklyn.” But another friend didn’t like it at all – he went on to read the much more serious Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, which he loved.
Update: Sloane Crosley’s YouTube video was added 4/6/2011 as were better book photos.