The 'Look Alive Out There' author takes us through the pop culture of her life

By Leah Greenblatt
March 30, 2018 at 03:47 PM EDT

The acclaimed essayist (I Was Told There’d be Cake, How Did You Get This Number), novelist (The Clasp), and curb-trash chronicler (Sad Stuff on the Street) returns this month with her third essay collection, Look Alive Out There, out April 3.

In the lead-up to the book’s release, Crosley spoke to EW about the flawed heroines, forbidden novels, and Brit-pop bands that shaped her. Read on below, and pre-order your copy of Look Alive Out There here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the first book you bought with your own money?
SLOANE CROSLEY: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I recognize how ludicrous that answer is, but I assure you it was not an indicator of the genius to come. I was 10 years old, at a book fair, and I liked the title and the cover. So I parted with $3 and spent the next three weeks highlighting all the words I didn’t know. I still have that copy. There’s more yellow than white inside.

What book did you sneak to read/hide from your parents as a kid?
I wasn’t allowed to watch Married With Children, so I went to my room and read my secret copy of [Stephen King’s] Misery instead. I also had a copy of [Jacqueline Susann’s] Valley of The Dolls. My parents really played that one poorly.

What fictional hero or heroine would you most want to be friends with in real life?
I gravitate towards novels with unlikable and deeply flawed heroines, so this is tricky. Wanting to spend time in someone’s world is different than wanting to let her into your life. But who better to talk about men with than Emma Bovary? Though you just know she’d be one of those friends that texts you screeds of advice that says a lot more about her issues than yours. Same issue with Maria Wyeth from Play It As It Lays, but she’s nothing if not compelling to be around.

What classic book did you find underwhelming, and/or never finish?
Finnegan’s Wake. I never finished Finnegan’s Wake. What’s more, I’m not entirely convinced anyone ever has. But I adore James Joyce otherwise, so this is a pure confession of guilt you’re getting here.

What book/album/movie might people be surprised to know you love?
The Once and Future King by T.H. White was the first long novel I read, and it single-handedly taught me about the pleasures of and rewards of an epic story. I remember the moment I finished it so well.

What kind of music do you like to write to? Or do you prefer silence?
I need silence. Occasionally, I’ll hear some especially elegant classical piece and think it would sharpen my arguments, calm my mind and elevate my writing. But when I try it, I feel too outside myself to write. Like I’m watching myself be a writer with a capital “W.”

What movies and/or albums do you consider comfort food?
I enjoy Sneakers and Michael Clayton a disproportionate amount. And those are two very beloved movies, but trust me — it’s disproportionate. Music-wise? Who doesn’t like Tom Petty? I also went through a big Britpop phase in the late ’90s. So I find bands like Black Grape comforting, and I expect this sentiment to chime in with precisely no one.

What fictional world would you want to live inside?
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. But this is a cheat because what I’m really after is a glimpse of downtown New York in the ’60s and ’70s. The real answer is probably something simple, beautiful, and literally out of this world, like The Little Prince.

What’s the last TV show you binged?
The Crown.

What TV show isn’t appreciated enough?
The Comeback with Lisa Kudrow. It was so far ahead of its time.

What’s the last book you gave as a gift? Not counting your own!
I gave my mother a copy of Tanya Barson’s Georgia O’Keeffe.

Who would play you in the story of your life?
Elliot Gould. Wig and dress are optional but encouraged.