Earlier, an ex-boyfriend had walked by carrying something like four drinks; asked to describe Ms. Crosley, he gave a wistful smile before turning away. “Inscrutable!” he said to no one in particular as he disappeared into the crowd.
Most everyone else, including authors whose projects she’s promoted, said words like “funny” and “smart.” Which is fine—though you might expect something a little more vivid from people who get paid to make up sentences—because Ms. Crosley really is funny and smart. Her mind moves quickly, and she’s constantly making jokes—little ones, usually, that seem to come out of her mouth almost reflexively. Someone drops a credit card and she exclaims, “Man down!” You start saying something vaguely critical about her book and she says, “What if I just hit you?”, before bursting into nervous laughter. Half the times she coughs, she excuses herself and says, “Hairball!”
The author Jonathan Ames, who has worked with Ms. Crosley on a number of books, calls this “the humor of exasperation.”
These days, Ms. Crosley is a star at work, but the trouble is, she’s dealing almost exclusively with authors who make her feel unqualified to be writing a book. This might have been true anywhere, but it’s particularly bad at Vintage because it’s a paperback imprint, and most of the books its staff oversees come from Alfred A. Knopf, a house with a very sophisticated, very literary list. In effect, when Ms. Crosley isn’t promoting books by luminaries like Toni Morrison and Joan Didion, she’s working with people like Dave Eggers, Jim Shepard, Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem. All of which gets her kind of nervous by the time she sits down on her couch at home on the Upper West Side to write one of her personal essays.
“You start feeling like, my God, have I not lived? What is it exactly that I’m writing about?” she says. “David Sedaris has Paris and Candace Bushnell has sex, and, you know, Chuck Klosterman has music. … What do I have?”
A big butt, maybe. And a hell of a lot of friends. Others have done with less.