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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Sloane Crosley is a book publicist who hit pay dirt with her own writing - a best-selling collection of New York-centric humorous essays called "I Was Told There'd Be Cake." For her second collection just out, "How Did You Get This Number," she ventures from Manhattan to Portugal and beyond.

Ms. SLOANE CROSLEY (Book Publicist, Author, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," "How Did You Get This Number"): I'd always, when I was younger, wanted to spin a globe and point to somewhere and go to the place to which I pointed. And that is exactly what happened. Actually, that's not exactly what happened. The first time I did it, I pointed to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So, I thought, well, no one's here to see me cheat. I don't need to be on a raft right now. So, I did it again and that's when I hit Lisbon.

HANSEN: You are a New York City woman and there's an essay in the book when you were in your best friend's bridal party in Alaska.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CROSLEY: (Reading) Here are the types of Alaskan residents, not including native tribes. One: military personnel; two: state builders; three: nature enthusiasts - by which I mean, raw, in-your-face nature - bird watching is for house cats; four: hippie nutballs who looked at Portland, Oregon and thought this is way too urban, I have to get out of here; five: people who have at one point done something very illegal involving a sawed off shotgun and freezer bags.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: This is, you know, to just put it in a category, kind of a fish out of water essay, the city slicker goes to the country kind of thing. When you were writing it for the collection, was it a challenge to keep it from becoming a cliche?

Ms. CROSLEY: Yes. The challenge is in the effort to avoid cliche you might go too far, I think. In the effort to avoid cliche sometimes you think, well, the easiest way to do that is to add an additional spark, an additional story, something that's totally unique. And what you risk in doing that is doing the sort of dancing monkey routine and having a joke per minute, per hour, per sentence. And all of the sudden, while you're not looking it turns out that your essay has lost its meaning and its lost its sort of universal application. So, it's sort of a tightrope to walk.

HANSEN: Paris - now, this was when you were 19, right?

Ms. CROSLEY: Yeah, the first time I went there I was 19.

HANSEN: Okay. Tell us what happened at Notre Dame.

Ms. CROSLEY: I had gone to Paris and I had gone with a friend and we decided to do a day of visiting cathedrals and there were some museums in there as well, I believe. But the highlight for her especially was Notre Dame. And we went and I was waiting in line with her for a confession, and I had always thought that confession was like the movies. I didn't have a lot of direct experience with it because I'm Jewish.

And I thought that, you know, you go and you go into a sort of small little velvet phone booth and you, you know, gave up everything you have and you're hopefully absolved and then that's that.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CROSLEY: (Reading) Where do I start? Emily was giddy with intimidation. I hadn't thought of this. If you were 19 years old and have never confessed, do you begin with the cigarette inhaled before noon this morning or the time you stole a package of sparkly pipe cleaners from your second grade art class and kept them at the bottom of your closet for two years, eventually throwing them out because you felt so guilty? Do you mention the lying, the drinking, the cheating, the gambling, the masturbation, the schadenfreude, the disrespecting of your parents, the disrespecting of other people's parents, the doing of the drugs, the shoplifting of the gum, the coveting of worldly goods, the advantage taking, the responsibility foisting, the tone you use with food delivery people when you're alone and they're foreign, that time you had a hang nail on your toe, so you stuck your foot in your mouth and you bit it off like a monkey - or is that all kind of a given by now?

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: At Notre Dame.

Ms. CROSLEY: And at Notre Dame really. I just choose the most, you know, Olympic, grandest stage I could find.

HANSEN: Why do you think the essay form suits you? I ask this because the last piece in the book is almost novella-sized and are you beginning to write longer pieces?

Ms. CROSLEY: It's huge, that last piece. I didn't think I actually had anything to say and then out popped this, you know, 13,000-word baby. I have always wanted to write fiction and I do think that the essay format suits me for now because a little bit of your work is done for you. That's the dirty secret with non-fiction.

You have sort of 15 percent of the world to work off and then you do the rest. You don't have to create everything from whole clothe. And I think, you know, life in New York especially is so frenetic that the idea that you can stop, that you can write and essay and move onto a different thought and bring that thought to its completion without actually having to constantly check back in with it is kind of a relief. And it's easier to be funny, I think, in a shorter format.

HANSEN: Sloane Crosley's collection of essays is called "How Did You Get This Number," and the author joined us from our New York studio. Thanks a lot.

Ms. CROSLEY: Thank you.

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