What's Really Wrong With Sloane Crosley?

Five months prior to Riverhead's release of a "heh!"-funny essay collection whose publication surely has nothing to do with her connections, the Observer has seen fit to lengthily profile Vintage publicist Sloane Crosley. She's non-threateningly pretty, often listens to people when they speak to her, claims to have an unusually ample ass for a Caucasoid, and is thus "the most popular publicist in New York." Joan Didion finds her "sweet"; Elizabeth Spiers likes her; Lockhart Steele likes her. You probably like her too. She's pretty much been spending the last few years building a web of alliances that prevents anyone from criticizing her in a public forum! Crafty. But, as reporter and former Weekend Gawkerer Leon Neyfakh discreetly intimates between em dashes, there's a private anguish behind all that public likability.

"Later, while sitting in a coffee shop in the West Village—inexplicably one of the only areas in Manhattan Ms. Crosley can comfortably navigate in spite of the spatial dysphasia disorder from which she has suffered since childhood—she politely said she did not find the question of her universal appeal very interesting." Okay; let's talk about your bizarre disease, then.

Indeed, given that "Ms. Crosley appears actually to enjoy the clusterfuck" of media parties, we have a right to know: What is this spatial dysphasia and, more importantly, is it contagious? Following in the grand tradition of Pasteur and Salk and House, let's proceed first to an exact-match Google search, which reveals that one thing "spatial dysphasia" is not is an accepted medical term. Or any other kind of term for that matter. Leon seems to have sort of made it up, actually!

One might fear that the trail ends here. Happily, though, we find that, in addition to personal essays on her butt and her goldfish, Crosley also recently wrote one, for Salon, about her "severe spatial disability." The scene after a seven-year-old Sloane scored in the tart-cart tranche on her first standardized test:

My mother went on to explain my brush with brilliance, my aptitude for geniusness, my general awesomeness, but the school was having none of it. They made me take an IQ test, after which the test administrator announced he had never seen such a right-left brain discrepancy. I was diagnosed with a severe temporal spatial deficit, a learning disability that means I have zero spatial relations skills.

It was official: I was a genius trapped in an idiot's body.

So there was a diagnosis, if only a childhood one. But, the riddle remains: deficits are for nations and attentions; whence arrives sexy "dysphasia"? Later in the same Salon article, after noting that "the biggest problem with my problem is that other people think they have my problem," Crosley describes identifying with another person's problem: "[A friend] said she knew someone who had facial blindness, a kind of recognition dysphasia that makes it impossible for her to recall faces of casual acquaintances and old friends.... I found this woman's existence extremely comforting."

It makes some sense now: "spatial dysphasia" as a phrase of solidarity with "someone else who hid her problems in plain sight...working double-time just to keep up with everyone else's standard of 'normal.'" Now is also when our investigation becomes irretrievably weird, because "recognition dysphasia" is just as non-term a term as the spatial variety. As it turns out, "face blindness" is actually a form of agnosia, which Wikipedia tells us is the "loss of ability to recognize objects, persons, sounds, shapes, or smells while the specific sense is not defective." This might be Crosley's problem with subways and the street grid, but it's definitely not dysphasia.

Truth is, dysphasia is just another word for aphasia, the familiar catch-all term for post–brain damage problems in producing and comprehending language. That's langauge, as in speaking and writing. It is therefore impossible to be a "spatial dysphasic," or a "facial" one. But perhaps Sloane Crosley is in fact an aphasic/dysphasic whose condition prevents her from accurately describing her condition. (Certainly, she appears to have some kind of difficulty communicating normally: "Ms. Crosley...cuts to the chase with editors and writers, and conscientiously tailors her pitches to suit their tastes.") Then again, there's the distinct and unpalatable possibility that Crosley, like so many before her, confused dysphasia with the identical-sounding dysphagia ("difficulty swallowing").

But, let's not work too hard at his; she probably won't be the best person you know in publishing anymore if she ever actually became knowable:

Earlier, an ex-boyfriend had walked by carrying something like four drinks; asked to describe Ms. Crosley, he gave a wistful smile before turning away. "Inscrutable!" he said to no one in particular as he disappeared into the crowd.

No, it's not contagious.

The Most Popular Publicist In New York [NYO]