In Grief Is for People (MCD, Feb.), Crosley reflects on the 2019 suicide of Vintage publicity director Russell Perreault, her friend and former boss, and the theft of her family heirlooms.
Many of us have a Russell in our lives—our story is shaped by their story, but is their story ours to tell? How did you navigate that particular line?
The struggle is not about what to leave in or leave out, but to focus on the North Star of the friendship. I’m deeply unlucky, as a human being, that this hilarious person died. I’m deeply lucky as the writer of this book, however, because any nod to the humor—I’ll take half the space on the shelf and he can take the rest.
Did you find your previous sure footing as a writer of humor less certain because of the heavy subject matter?
I include various philosophers from Émile Durkheim to Camus in the text, and I also quote Joan Didion. But there’s a levity as well—references to things like The Never Ending Story. That’s just how I think about tragedy and comedy. I have sometimes wished the mechanism with which I view the world was a little more earnest, with a more poetic quality to it, but in place of those qualities, I have humorous analogies, and it’s how I throw the world into relief. That’s going to be the same no matter what you give me.
What led you to juxtapose Russell’s death with the theft of your family heirlooms?
The thought process and the emotional process of writing a memoir mimics starting out writing a novel. You think, “This is not a date. This is a marriage. So what is going to propel me through this?” I had to tell this story in a way that encompassed a lot of different kinds of grieving and a lot of different kinds of loss while not losing sight of Russell. It’s also a bond that he and I shared: a love of objects and what they mean.
How do you hope this book advances humanity’s understanding of suicide?
I hope it advances our understanding of how we question and react to it, the vilification of it, how we talk to somebody who’s lost somebody. We should both be very earnest, very sincere, but not tiptoe around each other, because usually that’s what causes the problems. This is not a book about suicide. It’s about what we value and what we hold on to. It’s about recognizing pathological grief. Recognizing this is not too big for you—that whatever you feel is not too small to grieve.