Cult Clas­sic

  • Review
By – June 3, 2022

In Sloane Crosley’s nov­el Cult Clas­sic, Lola is thir­ty-sev­en and a mid-lev­el edi­tor at the web­site Radio New York. She lives with her fiancé, nick­named Boots,” but is luke­warm on the rela­tion­ship. One night, she runs into an old boyfriend out­side a fusion restau­rant, gets a drink with him, and feels the tug of her past. After a sec­ond chance encounter with a dif­fer­ent ex, she starts to feel that some­thing big­ger than her­self is hap­pen­ing — and it is. Lola has been cho­sen for an exper­i­ment by the Gol­con­da, an orga­ni­za­tion found­ed by her for­mer boss Clive. Lola calls it a cult, Clive calls it a move­ment”, and its first task is to fix” Lola’s love life by hav­ing her con­front past boyfriends and move for­ward in her rela­tion­ship with Boots — before, in so many words, she wrecks it. As her best friend notes, it’s like a roman­tic Minor­i­ty Report.” Lola is skep­ti­cal but game.

The Golconda’s head­quar­ters is a dis­used syn­a­gogue on the Low­er East Side, which is an inter­est­ing detail since, as Lola points out, Clive is not even Jew­ish. In one sense, it could sim­ply be an iron­ic nugget of sto­ry­telling, high­light­ing that urban thir­ty-some­things are so detached from reli­gion that the ori­gins of the Gol­con­da don’t even mat­ter; despite this, Lola, who is her­self Jew­ish, starts to feel a sense of con­nec­tion there — at one point she runs toward it as if it were an embassy on for­eign soil.” The writ­ing also indi­cates that the phys­i­cal space of the syn­a­gogue is imbued with spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, even if it takes Lola a long time to feel it — it is a tem­ple, a place where peo­ple had come to learn and recite and be rep­ri­mand­ed by God’s law.”

In revis­it­ing her old rela­tion­ships, Lola real­izes that she has reframed every breakup nar­ra­tive to give her­self more agency. Coun­ter­in­tu­itive­ly, she seems fed up with her own agency and wish­es she could be put on the shelf like a cake plat­ter and think of noth­ing.” To a cer­tain extent, she is the kind of mixed-up mil­len­ni­al woman seen before in nov­els such as My Year of Rest and Relax­ation and Fake Accounts. But Crosley (per­haps best-known for her col­lec­tion of essays I Was Told There’d Be Cake) is an espe­cial­ly fun­ny writer, and she injects that humor into Lola’s sharp-eyed metaphors as our nar­ra­tor (“I could feel Death, string­ing cob­webs along the walls of my uterus like Christ­mas garlands”).

In light of that, the minor flat­ten­ing” of Lola’s per­son­al­i­ty that accom­pa­nies the res­o­lu­tion at the end of the nov­el seems a lit­tle sad at first glance. But in a dark­ly comedic rem­i­nis­cence Lola has with Clive at the tail end, Crosley seems instead to sug­gest that the end­ing we see is just one pos­si­ble way for­ward out of many.

Discussion Questions