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EXCLUSIVE
Books

Read an excerpt from ‘Grief Is for People,’ Sloane Crosley's first memoir: EXCLUSIVE

In it, the essayist grapples with the loss of her friend to suicide.
Sloane Crosley and her memoir cover
Courtesy Jennifer Livingston

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

An exploration of loss, Sloane Crosley's first memoir "Grief Is for People" is, in many ways, a stark departure from her previous essay collections and novels, though she still writes with humor and wit.

Out Feb. 27, the memoir opens with the grief Crosley experienced after her New York City apartment was burglarized and several pieces of family jewels are stolen.

One month later, Crosley’s close friend and former colleague, book publicist Russell Perreault, took his own life, ushering her into a more harrowing form of grief.

Over the course of a year, Crosley tries to come to terms with the loss of her grandmother’s jewelry and her friend through a jumbled version of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief. It’s not a self-help book, nor did it ever feel like a form of personal catharsis.

“I think of catharsis as ‘phew’ or an exhale. If anything, after I wrote the last paragraph, I thought, ‘And now we can begin,’” Crosley tells TODAY.com in an exclusive interview.

Crosley has shared an exclusive excerpt from “Grief Is for People,” which she describes as a funny and painful effort to honor her late friend, Russell. The book, she says, is not intended to be speculative, but rather “to bring to the surface how almost intolerably funny he was.”

Crosley knows there's a chance her memoir will help readers who are grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. That was enough to keep her going.

“About halfway through, I (started) thinking that I wished this book existed while I was in so much pain,” Crosley says.

Excerpted from Grief Is for People by Sloane Crosley. Published in the United States by MCDxFSG, February 2024. Copyright ? 2024 by Sloane Crosley. All rights reserved.

Read an excerpt from 'Grief Is for People'

Is there such a thing as a funeralzilla? When my former colleagues secured a space for a memorial service, I did my best to make them regret consulting me. I objected to everything. I wanted something small. Dinner at an expensive restaurant. And we were to serve only Russell’s favorite foods. And only certain people should give speeches and they shouldn’t drone on. No one had the heart to say: “You do realize he will not be attending the dinner?” Fine, then. If we must do something bigger, it should be massive. And the programs should be fastened with ribbon, not staples. Actually, maybe we shouldn’t do it at all. All those people, stuck in their chairs like they’re getting a lecture on the Constitution. Maybe we should do it outside. Is it hard to shut down Fifth Avenue for an hour?

It took a small army to get it through my skull that people needed to mourn, and not just Russell’s five favorite people. A few more than that. They needed to sit in an auditorium and listen to speeches and poems, and some of those poems might be Auden. This is not actually about Russell. More to the point, it’s not about me. I am not the sole protector of this man. If he were here, he could manage the guest list, but he’s not here. The needs of the living are more important than the wants of the dead. Can’t I understand? Not as important. More important.

In the end, the only decision I made was to wear a dress I liked but Russell hated, and shoes Russell liked but I hated. This seemed like a fair compromise, considering. I wrote a eulogy. So did others. Our stories had so much duplicate fiber. But other people seemed to have no problem accessing their anger at Russell. Their heartbreak wires (I miss him) were entangled with their rage wires (I’ll kill him). They were in pain too, of course. If a rising tide lifts all boats, a whirlpool pulls them all to the bottom. The same way I had to pass the restaurant where I last saw him just to leave the house, they had to pass his empty office just to get to the bathroom.

Backstage, I saw his partner, who did not speak, who could not speak. We hugged. I hadn’t seen him since the parking lot in Connecticut, and before that? Not for years. He smelled like the fireplace and garlic. Russell’s garlic. John Updike wrote, “Every marriage tends to consist of an aristocrat and a peasant.” I’m sure their roles were perfectly obvious from the inside, but I never knew who was who when we were eating cobbler straight from the pan. Or when Russell dove into the pool while the dogs paced the perimeter, barking with concern.

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