She did, and after the Voice piece came out, Ms. Crosley’s byline started appearing all over the place, including in the pages of The New York Observer. Her essays usually took the form of funny stories and observations—one was about how she was a bad vegetarian; another was about how goldfish were underappreciated as pets; others—see the one about how much she likes her big butt—bordered on provocative. Generally speaking they were light and aggressively quirky: Ms. Crosley came off as a nice girl who dared to be funny. Readers and editors around town responded, and pretty soon, she was maintaining two separate careers.
That Voice piece was by no means the first thing Ms. Crosley had written in her life—like a lot of book publicists, she says, she has wanted to be a writer all along. She grew up in White Plains, N.Y., and attended Connecticut College, where she majored in creative writing (and minored in Japanese and archaeology) and did summer internships at Mirabella and The New Yorker. When she graduated and moved to New York in 2000, she did so with the intention of finding a job at a magazine.
This proved impossible, though, and she decided to give book publishing a try after a friend who had taken the Radcliffe Publishing Course inspired her to find out what a “literary agent” did. She Googled it, and a Web site came up listing 90 agencies. Ms. Crosley sent her résumé to each one. Before long, she’d landed a job as an assistant at one of them, a psychotraumatic experience she would later turn into an essay for her collection called “The Ursula Cookie,” which peaks with poor young Sloane deliriously baking a Christmas cookie decorated to look like her boss’s face, in a misguided attempt to get on her good side.
When you ask Ms. Crosley what I Was Told There’d Be Cake is about, she happily says, “Disappointment.”
This is a weird answer, because Ms. Crosley seems pretty thrilled about the way things have turned out. More thrilled, it should be said, than most of the media people she’s friends with, many of whom seem to sulk from one Radar party to another feeling more or less disgusted with themselves and fatally suspicious of the people around them.
Indeed, Ms. Crosley appears actually to enjoy the clusterfuck: she has fun when she goes to parties, and when she finds herself in conversation with someone, she is not immediately consumed with anxiety about how she�
�s going to get out of it. This gives her grace, and people take notice.
Russell Perreault, Ms. Crosley’s boss at Vintage, calls her the perfect guest, and he has her up to his summer home in New Milford, Conn., as often as she’ll come. “It’s always fun with her,” Mr. Perreault said, “whether you’re playing badminton or tennis or you’re going on a hike.
“Obviously,” he continued, “as director of publicity, I get invited to a lot of parties. It’s part of my job. If I get a plus-one I always drag her along with me. If she doesn’t know everybody there, by the end of the party she probably will. She’s a great person to have on your arm, because by the end of the party you’ll know everybody, too.”
EARLIER THIS MONTH at the Housing Works Gin Mingle, an annual event held at the roomy SoHo bookstore that brings together all manner of editors and literary types, Ms. Crosley did not have to introduce herself too many times. When she decided to go outside for a cigarette, it took fully six minutes and six conversations before she managed to get from the back of the store to the front door.
Which is not to say she is a social butterfly of indiscriminate taste. Though she claims to like everybody “unless they do some damage” to her, she does worry that life in this city has made some of the characters she interacts with a little, well, soulless.
“The really scary thing about New York is not the fear that everyone is hiding their true self,” she said. “The really frightening thing is that they’re not—that that’s it. That they’ve become whatever person they’ve built up.”
Ms. Crosley calls this the “empty mask” syndrome, and as you watch her move about at a publishing party, you can see that for all the energy and enthusiasm she projects, she maintains a strict, quiet skepticism as she works the floor.
At Housing Works, everyone wanted to say hi to her: Older women—agents, editors, etc.—spoke to her with a conspiratorial sort of excitement; young men approached her one after another and behaved very transparently.
“She’s very charming, isn’t she?” one of them said, looking over with appreciation at Ms. Crosley. “She’s kind of irresistible.”