Sloane Crosley on Travel Music, Polly Pocket, and ODB

by Melissa Locker

As the editor of The Best American Travel Writing 2011 (out today), Sloane Crosley is an incidental authority on traveling tunes. So we hopped on to to talk to the author of New York Times bestsellers I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number about music, traveling, and what you should listen to when you’re running from the police.

Sloane Crosley started playing “Starry Eyed” by Ellie Goulding

Melissa Locker: Is this song on your road trip driving mix?
Sloane Crosley: Actually, it’s not. I just put a bunch of stuff up in here, some of which was played on a road trip I just took through the north of France (ooo la la) but most of which is random. I’m not a massive Ellie Goulding person but this song seems perfect for driving fast.
Melissa Locker: Driving through France? Ooh la la is right!

Melissa Locker started playing “Doll Parts” by Hole

Melissa Locker: I played this song because I wanted to talk about the incredibly awesome paper dolls you made for your book How Did You Get This Number.

Sloane Crosley: Hole! YES. I have such a clear vision of the cover of this album.
Melissa Locker: I know all this Nevermind nostalgia has been making me think about this album and then when I saw your paper dolls…
Sloane Crosley: Well, also “I want to be the girl with the most cake.” And yes, the dolls. I gave most of them away. I auctioned off the dioramas for charity so….
Melissa Locker: What is your charity of choice?

Sloane Crosley started playing “Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)” by Phosphorescent

Sloane Crosley: It was Housingworks. I also work quite a bit with The NY Public Library (so you’d think, at the very least, I’d be able to spell but let’s chalk it up to fast IM typing) but the library is less in need of diorama capital. The Young Lions benefit this year just got Emma Stone to co-host. More movie stars, less glue. Or just as much glue. but not as public. Do you know this song?
Melissa Locker: I don’t! I like it, though it seems sad. Are you a sad song sort of girl?
Sloane Crosley: Oh, it’s so sad. Wait, I am “laming” my own song and putting on the saddest one. Please hold. Oh, I can’t lame myself. Is that like how hotel windows will only open just so far?
Melissa Locker: Exactly like that. But I think this song is great, so I “awesome-d” it and now it looks like we’re slow dancing.
Sloane Crosley: I guess this would be for the slow part of the road trip when we (you’re in the car now too) have run out of things to talk about.
Melissa Locker: I will go on a roadtrip with you, especially if we are in France. But are you the driver or the passenger?

Melissa Locker started playing “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” by Lucinda Williams

Sloane Crosley: Done. I am the driver for the most part, though not always. It’s not symbolic.
Melissa Locker: You grew up in NY, where a lot of people can’t drive.
Sloane Crosley: A lot of people who are given licenses can’t drive either so the median barrier swings both ways if you know what I’m sayin’. But I grew up in suburbia. A car was key.
Melissa Locker: What made you want to drive through the North of France?
Sloane Crosley: My friend was going for a wedding and he happened to be going in the exact part of France I think I might want to write about one day soon.
Melissa Locker: Which part?
Sloane Crosley: Normandy…Rouen and north of there along the water. Have you ever been to Big Sur or the west coast of Ireland or anywhere like that? The north of France is like a Polly Pocket version of those places.

Sloane Crosley started playing “Hysterical” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Melissa Locker: I love this song!
Sloane Crosley: I went to college with these gents. They’re pals and I love them. [Insert: not-so-subtle suggestion everyone buy their new record.]
Melissa Locker: Tell them I love them and I already have their new record. You recently edited the latest America’s Best Travel Writing collection. Did reading all those travel essays make you want to write about France?

Melissa Locker started playing “She’s Not There” by The Zombies

Sloane Crosley: You know, it’s funny, I already wrote about Paris in How Did You Get This Number, and the kicker to that piece is essentially: The French won’t let me back in the country. Maybe the key is just spending a limited amount of time in Paris? I landed and got in a car. But where were we? Right. I actually feel pretty poorly traveled. I have never been to, say, Asia. But being able to get on a plane is hopefully a different skill than recognizing a good essay. I guess you could argue that the armchair aspect is requisite if you’re putting together a book, no an itinerary. And this is a GREAT song.

Sloane Crosley started playing “Children’s Story (Album Version (Explicit))” by Slick Rick

Sloane Crosley: We can play this when we’re on the run from the po po.
Melissa Locker: Oh I didn’t know it was going to be one of THOSE road trips.
Sloane Crosley: I mean, what have you DONE, Broke Down Palace?
Melissa Locker: Hahaha, oh I’ve DONE things. But what about you? I want to talk about clowns.

Melissa Locker started playing “Miracles” by Insane Clown Posse

Melissa Locker: How did a nice girl like you end up with a troupe of Portguese clowns [as documented in How Did You Get This Number]?
Sloane Crosley: Well, when you’re traveling one thing leads to another. When in Rome, track down a bunch of carnie freaks.

Sloane Crosley started playing “Got Your Money” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Melissa Locker: I couldn’t handle the Insane Clown Posse. I’m no juggalo. But Ol’ Dirty Bastard definitely reminds me of driving through the French countryside.
Sloane Crosley: I thought I’d see your Insane Clown Posse and raise you some ODB.
Melissa Locker: I fold!
Melissa Locker: So what was it like editing the Best American Travel Writing 2011?
Sloane Crosley: It was much more difficult than I thought it would be to narrow the essays. I think, if I had to pick, Annie Proulx’s essay on birds is my favorite. But I don’t know why I’m intentionally offending the other writers when you didn’t even ask me to play favorites. I am biased, but I’m a fan of the mix of locales as well as observers. Israel, Australia, Serbia, the deep South, Iran…

Melissa Locker started playing “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins

Melissa Locker: I didn’t know how to follow ODB, so I went with this.
Sloane Crosley: This was on my list too! How on-the-nose. I am the girl like you, I guess.
Melissa Locker: We can hang out and listen to this and make dioramas.
Sloane Crosley: Get ready because I’m going to depress the crap out of you in a sec. And it is related to travel. I listened to the next song nonstop on a plane two days after I had my ass HANDED to me by some guy. And I feel like whatever you listen to when you’re away from home sticks.
Melissa Locker: Oh good, something to look forward to.

Sloane Crosley started playing “What You Gave Away” by The One AM Radio

Melissa Locker: This song does seem quite … er, uplifting. How much music do you normally travel with?
Sloane Crosley: I always travel with music, but it gets shut off if I realize I am looking at something that needs a moment of silence. Cliffs. A sunset. A pile of cheese.
Melissa Locker: Cheese does require a moment of silence.
Sloane Crosley: I was just thinking, on a not-so-side-note, we should have done a soundtrack to go with the book. Though what goes with a William Vollmann essay? Donovan?
Melissa Locker: Oh geez. William Vollmann? Maybe one of the goofier David Bowie songs like “Dance Magic from Labyrinth”?
Sloane Crosley: I love it! Wait, let’s do more.
Melissa Locker: Okay.
Melissa Locker: What goes with Annie Proulx? I would say Red House Painters.
Sloane Crosley: I think Maxine Nightingale (GET IT?) for the Proulx essay about birds.
Melissa Locker: You could also play Robyn for the bird essay.
Sloane Crosley: There’s a Keith Gessen essay about Moscow traffic. Maybe “Common People” by Pulp?
Melissa Locker: Or “Lost Cause” by Beck?

Melissa Locker started playing “Magic Dance” by David Bowie

Sloane Crosley: I love this song. This and the underloved Cat People.
Melissa Locker: How do you feel about the Laughing Gnome?
Sloane Crosley: I don’t have lots of feelings about it, the video needs to be watched with the help of drugs.
Melissa Locker: Well, yeah. I’m sure that’s how it was made, too.
Sloane Crosley: Well….Tea Obreht’s “Twilight of the Vampires,” about looking for real vampire lore in the Balkans.
Melissa Locker: The Bruno Mars song from the new Twilight soundtrack? I’m kidding because that song is terrible.
Sloane Crosley: “Too Much Blood” by the Stones?
Melissa Locker: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”?
Sloane Crosley: Oh…got it: THRILLER.
Melissa Locker: Hahaha YES. That sounds like a great essay, even it wasn’t your favorite. Because you said Annie Proulx was and you can’t take it back.
Sloane Crosley: It’s wonderful. I really did learn so much reading these essays. The trick was to find ones outside of the Harper’s/New Yorker realm.
Melissa Locker: As an editor was it your job to go track down the essays?

Sloane Crosley started playing “Get It While You Can” by Howard Tate

Sloane Crosley: No, the series editor, Jason Wilson, narrows it from around 100 essays and then I picked just under 20. Still a lot, but what I’m reading has been vetted.
Melissa Locker: What were you looking for beyond just diaspora?
Sloane Crosley: Great writing that took me somewhere I didn’t even know I wanted to go. There were some lovely pieces that were more relevant. Since they weren’t chosen, I don’t want to name them but say, a piece on travel and Facebook. And maybe that should have gotten in because it fits squarely into “now,” but how to I boot Christopher Buckley out for that?
Melissa Locker: Yeah, he might fight you. This is a great song by the way.
Sloane Crosley: Not if I play Howard Tate for him.
Melissa Locker: True! Who could argue with that song?

Melissa Locker started playing “Tokyo Á Go-Go” by The Magnetic Fields

Melissa Locker: So what’s the next stamp in your passport going to be?
Sloane Crosley: Japan, I hope.
Melissa Locker: Oh then this song should be on your iPod.
Sloane Crosley: Indeed. I love the Japanese. They have the highest global rate of kids with ulcers because they’re so stressed out. But how, I ask you, can they be so stressed with so many cat videos? Makes no sense.
Melissa Locker: Plus they have tiny mayonnaise containers for their lunch boxes. They should be much happier.
Sloane Crosley: I mean, it feels weird to mock them at this moment in time but well, hey: They won the World Cup! We can go back to making jokes now!
Melissa Locker: Do you have a flattering photo in your passport? You seem like you would.
Sloane Crosley: I look better in my passport photo than I do in person. But my driver’s license is too ugly for words.

Sloane Crosley started playing “At My Heels” by Twin Shadow

Melissa Locker: Did the book inspire you to travel to, say, the Balkans?
Sloane Crosley: I would love to go there. The whole area. And back to Tea’s piece — this song might be good. “….why a ghost is following me…” Anyway. I wouldn’t mind going to Denmark or to the northern tip of Australia now. But it’s more about the level of detail and import these writers have. It makes you want to open your eyes wider just to pick up your drycleaning. I think anthologies get a bad rep for being, how shall I say this — anthologized? But it’s not so different from this mix-picking experience. Yes, I could track down and hear all these songs on my own, but it’s fun to have a little guidance. Assuming you like the tour guide well enough.
Melissa Locker: Well I for one would read anything with your stamp of approval.
Sloane Crosley: Thank you! I’ve enjoyed having a Japanese manga avatar with you.
Melissa Locker: I’ll be manga with you any time.

The Best American Travel Writing 2011 is out today.

Melissa Locker is a writer in Brooklyn with a brand new passport. You can follow her on Twitter @woolyknickers.