Call it prayer, call it intention or manifestation, call it “throwing it out into the universe to see what we get back.” At some point, we all have had a fundamentally unanswerable question whose solution we hoped to find somewhere in the great “out there.” In Cult Classic, the second novel from bestselling author and two-time Thurber Prize finalist Sloane Crosley, former psychology magazine editor Clive Glenn has reinvented himself as a New Age guru with a side of tech entrepreneur. He’s like L. Ron Hubbard by way of Gwyneth Paltrow, with a dash of Elon Musk.
Clive’s project, the Golconda, promises to “put your past into a cohesive whole in an abbreviated time frame, thereby setting an actual course correction for closure.” The Golconda’s Classic package arranges meet cutes with a user’s former paramours, followed by a debrief on a device that’s like a cross between a polygraph and the Scientology E-meter.
Clive’s former staffer Lola wants to confront her ex-lovers to discover why things blew up and maybe get a handle on where to go—if anywhere—with her fiancé, a laid-back glass artist called Boots. The source of Lola’s agita is not uncommon with folks tying the knot for the first time; fans of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity will recognize it straightaway. Is settling down the same thing as settling for less? And might we be more compatible with one of our exes than with the bird in the hand, if we’d known then what we know now? As Lola begins to uncover answers through the Classic package, she is also confronted with some troubling questions, both about her current relationship and about the Golconda project itself.
Through Lola, Crosley wields language like a rapier, slicing off layers of self-delusion and self-doubt to find even more layers underneath. Lola needs to make some hard decisions about her spouse-to-be-or-not-to-be, but in order to do that, she must uncover the secret at the heart of her guru’s creation. Does Golconda, like Lola’s checkered past with men, carry within it the seeds of its own destruction? If it implodes, can she withstand the fallout? And will the universe call her back before it’s too late?