January 26, 2009

I Read a Book: "I Was Told There'd Be Cake" by Sloane Crosley

So, I'm reading a book. I know, right? Who does that? I didn't even want this book, but my mom insists that it was on my Amazon.com wish list (it wasn't.) The only thing remotely close to literature that I had asked for was a giant picture book of animals, so when one of my gifts was a book titled I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley I was thoroughly confused. My whole family had a good laugh, and I promised my mom that I would make myself read it, simply based on the amusing title alone.

It turns out that the book, which is a collection of short essays, is actually really, really funny. In fact, while reading on the plane back from Puerto Rico (jealous?) I actually laughed out loud. I HATE people who laugh out loud at books! Books are not funny! The part that got me was from the chapter called "Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work Day" in which Crosley expertly explains the childhood staple of anyone born between 1980 and 1988 (except Carolyn, who is abnormal): Oregon Trail. Here's an excerpt:

"A game of moderately tough choices and rawhide, Oregon Trail wound its way through the late 1980s in a very un-'80s-like fashion: subtly. Unlike BurgerTime or Tetris, high-speed programs structured around multiple levels, Oregon Trail slowly moved toward a singular goal. It also had a distinct masturbatory quality. Here was something millions of preteens did, only you wouldn't find out until much later in life. Something one could do over and over again with no diminishment of rewards. Apparently many children learned how to play it at school, which was just plain illegal.

Unlike other games of the day, which had me leaping through traffic or called me "gumshoe," Oregon Trail left lots of room for creativity. It seemed ripe for the misuse. Like a precursor to the Sims, you were allowed to name your wagoneers and manipulate their destinies. It didn't take me long to employ my powers for evil. I would load up the wagon with people I loathed, like my math teacher. Then I would intentionally lose the game, starving her or fording a river with her when I knew she was weak. The program would attempt an intervention, informing me that I had enough buffalo carcass for one day. One more lifeless caribou would make the wagon too heavy, endangering the lives of those inside. Really now? Then how about three more? How about four? Nothing could stop this huntress of the diminutive plains. It was time to level the playing field between me and the woman who called my differential equations "nonsensical" in front of fifteen other teenagers. Eventually a message would pop up in the middle of the screen, framed in a neat box: MRS. ROSS HAS DIED OF DYSENTERY. This filled me with glee."

Genius. Who knew reading could actually be enjoyable? Thanks for screwing up and getting me this book, mom!