by Sloane Crosley
Egy Kis Dry Furmint, Barta 2017
Quintessential New Yorker Sloane Crosley made her UK debut back in 2010 at my Literary Salon at Shoreditch House with her ruthlessly personal essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake. She’s often compared to Dorothy Parker and David Sedaris … but is in fact slightly taller and even funnier and just as insightful. Her essays are painfully funny and sometimes just painful. Resisting the temptation to stick to what she’s so obviously good at she conjured a brilliant first novel: The Clasp
An homage to Guy de Maupassant’s classic short story The Necklace, it’s a caper about a search for a fabulous necklace supposedly stolen by Nazis. If, somehow, you weren’t treated Maupassant’s original as an exemplar of the short story at school, hold out until after the novel, is all I’m saying. Crosley’s novel is the latest in a long line of nods. Henry James had a go with a tribute entitled Paste and Somerset Maugham used the famous twist too.
The Clasp begins at a horribly swanky wedding in Florida, with a group of college friends wondering when their lives will start even as 30 beckons. Victor has been fired from “the internet’s seventh-largest search-engine”. Nathaniel has been trying his luck in LA “with nothing but Fitzgeraldian hope” and Kezia has swapped a stuffy position in a swanky jewellery firm for a cooler place in the Meatpacking district with a designer who upcycles petrified teeth. None of them is loving their best life. Kezia’s job that leads her to Paris in search of the perfect clasp for a necklace and the others follow for various confected reasons. Crosley is obsessed by jewellery and said in her essay “The Height of Luxury”: “I knew what a cabochon amethyst was before I could tie my shoes.” She wears her research like a subtle but wildly intricate brooch. Once in Europe, we are treated to the classic ‘Americans abroad’ observations—as fresh now as when Henry James sent Daisy Miller to Rome. But funnier: “Victor knew the French had a reputation for this for withholding answers unto the speaker was either sufficiently tortured or exactly three minutes had passed.” Victor believes a priceless necklace is hidden a small chateau in Dieppe which is “located on top of this corset-shaped country and the last stop he could take on public transportation from Paris’’. And so the caper builds to a brilliantly bonkers climax.
‘Fun’ and ‘wine’ often leads to terrifying pink prosecco or worse. I haven’t done a novel painting for a comic novel before. So, I started to think more deeply about the characters. However shallow they are they do have real hopes and fears—will they find love, will they ever think about someone other than themselves! There’s no doubt Victor, Nathaniel and Kezia could agree to enjoy Bakestone Cellars Chardonnay 2015. From legendary Cali-producer Cakebread, comes their diffusion label, Bakestone Cellars Fresher and lighter than you might expect it has barely ripe Conference Pears, green apples and a touch of breakfast melon: think Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is what they’d serve at the wedding at the start of the book. I doubt the gang would drink red because they’d be fretting about tooth whiteness but if they did, they would certainly shun a big Bordeaux, too obvious, ditto Burgundy. L’Empreinte de Saint Mont by Producteurs Plaimont is from Gascony – just off-the-radar enough to be cool. It looks darker than it tastes which is not to say it’s disappointing. A refreshing balance of Tannat and Pinenc with a hit of Cabernet Sauvignon it has the guileful simplicity of freshly made confiture with good biting tannins. They’re more likely to find our final wine in Brooklyn than Dieppe: Egy Kis Dry Furmint, Barta 2017 is from Tokaji in Hungry. Yes, it’s the same grape used to make the seriously sweet dessert wine. In this incarnation it’s firm and dry but still fruity—yellow plums and lime blossom with a hit of salty air, a bit like Albariño. It’s perfect hipster wine. Crosley’s characters are self-obsessed but not self-aware enough to admit that they are hipsters. Which, ironically, makes the Egy Kis the perfect #NovelPairing. Oh, the irony.