Life & Culture

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley book review - Claim to enduring fame is just wishful thinking

Self-indulgent romantic satire leaves you feeling disappointed


Cult Classic
By Sloane Crosley
Bloomsbury £16.99

Sloane Crosley arrived on the literary scene garlanded with praise. Her debut essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, was a bestseller, while her first novel, The Clasp, was a similar hit a few years later, and justifiably so.

Her latest, Cult Classic, comes with effusive endorsements from the likes of David Sedaris and Elif Batuman, such that you’d expect it to live up to its title and become a must-read. Sadly, I don’t think it will.

It’s not that it’s unenjoyable, or unreadable. Like The Clasp (a college-friends-reunited saga), it’s littered with dry observations, many of which will have you impressed with Crosley’s knack for summing up the human experience (or at least that of artsy Jewish millennials looking for love).

A friend talks about the men she dates “as if they were lab rats, the way married people do, as if their life is the control and yours is the experiment”; the protagonist muses about how “the love lobby is worse than the gun lobby. More misery, more addiction, more heads on spikes.” But the story, such as it is, falls a bit flat.

Lola, an aimless but attractive journalist in her late thirties, is wandering around Manhattan when she bumps into an ex, triggering an extended jaunt down memory lane and a navel-gazing contemplation of her romantic journey until meeting her current paramour, Boots.

Then, it happens again; another brief encounter with an ex, and it keeps happening. Is the universe playing tricks? Well no, and yes, as it transpires that she is patient zero for a moneymaking experiment to do with the power of wishful thinking.

Yet this isn’t science fiction but a satirical comedy dressed up as a thriller, so the rest is largely a meander through her past relationships. Which, again, is fine — Crosley brings these erstwhile lovers to life with verve — but is diluted by Lola being a barely there sketch, primarily rendered through a string of failed affairs.

She works in a media start-up but we never really learn what drives her; she appears to have no financial worries, few friendships outside a toxic circle of ex-colleagues, and an entirely unremarkable family history.

She’s a cipher, in other words, for the author’s theories about love and life, and in truth I’d rather read a memoir about those subjects from Crosley, who is herself also a successful writer for Vanity Fair.

You won’t necessarily hate this, but by the time it comes together, it’s hard to feel invested in Lola’s fate. In truth, it’s self-indulgent; the kind of book that could only get published by a writer who once upon a time was herself destined to be a cult classic.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive