Sloane Crosley is looking forward to Tuesday, October 6. That’s when her first novel, The Clasp, hits stores. It’s garnering great blurbs from the likes of Michael Chabon, Heidi Julavits and Gary Shteyngart; the latter said after reading the book, “I gnashed my teeth at Sloane Crosley’s talent.” I’ve long admired Crosley’s work, including the essay collections How Did You Get This Number and I Was Told There’d Be Cake (both New York Times bestsellers), and I look forward to getting my hands on her first foray into long-form fiction.
Crosley’s witty take on fashion, style and matters of the heart has made her a favorite of the fashion-blogging world, and she’s often asked to write about her wardrobe choices. Here, she recounts an effort to incorporate more black into her wardrobe: “When I arrive at Barneys New York, I run my hands over all the bright, interesting choices. I feel like a kid playing with puppies — only to have Mom tell me I’m not allowed to take any of them home. I meander from floor to floor, finally skulking to the dressing room with one pair of inky crepe pants, one sparkly black jacket, a few black shirts and a skirt that is, upon closer examination, navy. Apparently even my subconscious is in active revolt against black.”
She’s currently on the tour circuit for The Clasp and will read from the novel at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore on Friday, October 16. She will also appear at Austin’s Texas Book Festival, which takes place on October 17 and 18. We posed a few questions to the New York-based writer ahead of her Texas sojourn:
Fashion and literature have a rich and storied relationship; think of the descriptions of clothing in À rebours or Madame Bovary. You’ve had much to say about fashion (including jewelry) in your writing as well. What are your favorite books that say a lot about fashion?
I’m not actually drawn to novels that excel in fashion design, though there are outfits that pop out in my mind as I think about this question: The Age of Innocence (when wrists and ankles were more relevant than they are now), A Visit From The Goon Squad (faded rock ’n’ glamour and safari gear), Glamorama (’90s model fashion), Lolita (road-trip shorts?). But the whole world of fashion and accessories lights up for me when I see it as art. Not to knock clothing as a concept, but it’s a lot easier to see jewelry as art. Which is a larger theme in The Clasp. Between the craftsmanship, the value, the materials and the age, jewelry is often more storied than the most famous of paintings. It’s just that the story in question is hidden.
I’m familiar with the story about your grandmother and her Georg Jensen pieces — that you love the jewelry, your grandmother not so much. The plot of The Clasp involves an older woman and jewelry — more specifically, a valuable necklace that disappeared during the Nazi occupation of France. Did your grandmother serve in any way as inspiration for The Clasp?
Yes, I wrote a piece about my grandmother’s jewelry for W magazine, and the idea for the novel was already percolating in my mind. Writing a magazine feature and writing a novel require very different mental muscles, so I wouldn’t say that piece provided inspiration, but it was helpful to spend as much time in that world as possible, mentally as well as literally, so that I could convincingly create characters that worked there.
Your book tour brings you to Houston and Austin. Have you been to either before? What is your impression of them — and of Texas in general?
I have seen so little of such a giant state; it’s hard to say “I love Texas!” because I don’t know it well enough. See also: “I love Europe!” But I can tell you that every trip I have ever made to Austin is miraculously better than the one before it. I adore that town — and while we’re focusing on fashion, I try to make it to Kickpleat when I go. The only other two places I’ve been are Wichita Falls (for a speaking engagement) and Dallas (for a story). And the people are as advertised: warm and generous and surprisingly forgiving of my refusal to eat meat, specifically ribs. I’ve only heard great things about Houston and can’t wait to finally read at Brazos. I also hope to make it to Marfa soon, but I just don’t know if I’m cool enough.
Favorite designer? What would you say is “the Sloane Crosley look”?
This is the part where I’m supposed to avoid saying “jeans and an old T-shirt with holes in it,” right? When I do leave the house, I would say my look is some manner of Rachel Comey boot, something black on the bottom, a thin T-shirt (I’m partial to gray), a blazer and lots of rings and necklaces. Though my grandmother (by way of Coco Chanel, I believe) used to tell me that you should put on all the jewelry you want to wear, stand in front of the mirror … and then take one thing off.
How does Sloane Crosley prepare herself for the world? Makeup regimen? Products you cannot live without?
I like that this question refers to me in the third person, if only because it gives me the opportunity to say what I should be doing before I leave the house — what I do when I have time. I use Malin + Goetz grapefruit face cleanser and Swedish Defense moisturizer from Face Stockholm (the idea of a “Swedish defense” is amusing in itself). If I’m feeling ambitious, some form of eye or neck cream. For makeup (assuming I don’t have a zit in this scenario), I use only powder, bronzer and lip gloss. Every mascara in the world irritates my eyes, so I just use a curler and hope for the best.