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Random Rules: Sloane Crosley

The shuffler: Book-publicist-turned-essayist Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake, a collection of humorous pieces written in a droll, playfully sour voice that evokes the likes of David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and David Rakoff. Her stories cover a range of subject matter from locking herself out of her Manhattan apartment to withstanding a stint as a bridesmaid.

Bree Sharp, "David Duchovny"

Sloane Crosley: This is an insane song that came out right around when The X-Files was really popular. I know this sounds like a weird thing to say if you're under the age of 80, but she's got a hell of a set of pipes. She's very extreme about her obsession with David Duchovny: "David Duchovny, why won't you love me? I'm going to kill Scully." I actually wasn't a X-Files fan, but I was a big Twin Peaks fan, so there's a David Duchovny connection there. It's like, "David Duchovny, I want you to love me, to kiss and to hug me, debrief and debug me." She just wants to be abducted into the alien light of the spaceship of love. [Laughs.]

In-flight Portuguese Language Lesson, "At The Airport"

SC: You know those language tapes you can get that allegedly teach you an entire language? I went to Lisbon on a fluke. Every vacation I take, I take to write, essentially, because I have two jobs. I hadn't taken a real, sincere vacation probably since 2000. I thought I was going to go crazy, so I spun a globe. I had rules beforehand: I was not allowed to go a place I'd already been, I couldn't go anywhere that depleted my entire life savings to get there, and I couldn't go to a war zone. So I spun the globe and landed smack-dead in the ocean. I spun again and my finger landed on Lisbon. I was like, "All righty, I'm going." It was crazy. I was sitting in the airport like, "What have I done?" Lisbon was a little bit shady. But it was beautiful, and the people were really friendly. I can now say "Eu não falo Português," which is: "I don't speak Portuguese." What's weird is if you say that well enough, people keep talking to you. No good deed goes unpunished.

Belle & Sebastian, "I Don't Love Anyone"

SC: I feel like this was a sort of album [Tigermilk] that got passed around at the start, in terms of there only being a few tapes of it. I remember it being hard to get hold of before they put it on CD. I was living in Scotland to study for a time, and they sold these really huge, gigantic posters at this record store there: probably 9'-by-5' band posters. They were two-for-one, and the one I actually bought was Kula Shaker, because I thought it was really cool. It's a giant picture of a guy coming up an escalator, and it's framed in my apartment. It's heinous, totally ugly, but I love it. The other one I got, for free, is the cover of this album.

The A.V. Club: Belle & Sebastian is a fairly literary song-writing project. As someone who works with books, do you gravitate toward literary songwriting?

SC: I do. I think it can veer pretty easily into the too-precious realm. What's funny is that I'll get very into stuff like The Decemberists' constant storytelling, or Belle & Sebastian songs about dorky kids at school, with references to actual literary works in them. But if I listen to that stuff too much, I find myself just going back and listening to The Rolling Stones.

AVC: Do you listen to music while you write?

SC: I try to listen to stuff that I'm completely sick of, so I don't hear it. But I will occasionally listen to music. Or stuff that all sounds a little bit similar, like Feist. I'm a huge fan of two or three of her songs. I'm the same way with Cat Power, which I know is blasphemy, but I feel like it all sounds—it all hits this weird note. If you listen that stuff too much, you find yourself writing The Bell Jar Redux.

AVC: Do you have essays you've written that you associate with certain songs?

SC: Yeah, there's one in the book called "You On A Stick." It's sort of a critique of weddings—not even a critique, but a comment. I don't know if I'm missing some segment of my brain, but I've never pictured my own wedding. At all. Not the cake, not the dress, not the location, nothing—just the music. So I was trying to say there were certain songs that I felt are weird for people to pick out of a hat. Like that song "At Last." I think that's the most depressing song I've ever heard in my life. "At last, my love has come along / My lonely days are over and life is like a song"? Honestly, it's like "Thanks for saving me from turning into a one-woman Grey Gardens." So sad. I was wondering what I would want, and one song that got stuck in my head was "The Hook" by Stephen Malkmus. It's about getting kidnapped by pirates, which seems to me what marriage is like. And also "The Book Of Love" by The Magnetic Fields. That song makes me well up. It warms the cockles of my cold heart.

Nas, "Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)"

SC: I like that Nas shouts out the southern Westchester suburbs in "The World Is Yours." Growing up, I felt like White Plains was just a hair shy of getting mentioned in a Nas song, which makes me partial to him.

AVC: Are there any Nas songs you think would be especially appropriate for a wedding?

SC: [Laughs.] I don't know. I can't think of one. I'm not that anti-romance. But I wouldn't mind having Nas perform at my wedding. That would be amazing.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "Mary Jane's Last Dance"

SC: I remember the video of this really well, of him dancing with this limp… I guess I don't remember it that well. Is it a doll, or just a woman in white? It's kind of a creepy video. I have to say, it's the best song to walk around to in New York. It makes you feel like you should be wearing cowboy boots. It makes me want to have grown up in Indiana.