The Rules Do Not Apply to Writing Memoirs
I never really decided to read Ariel Levy's The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir. It just sort of happened. In fact, I never bought the book. I visited a bookstore twice and both times picked up a copy of it (a different one each time, I'm pretty sure) and sat in a chair and read it. For some reason, I read the second half first. Then I left. Then however many days after that, I returned, not really intending to read the rest of it, but thinking maybe I would, and then I read the first half. The book is built around a famous and terrifying essay that Levy wrote for The New Yorker in which she has a miscarriage in a foreign country: "Thanksgiving in Mongolia." I was floored when I read that in 2013. How could she get so raw? I marveled. It was like entering an emotional abattoir. But the problem is that the book feels like she got a book deal based on that essay, and then she sort of padded the book around it. The book is thin. I mean it's 224 pages, but it feels thin. It feels sort of hurried and rushed and manufactured. Maybe it was or maybe it wasn't. I wasn't really a fan of Levy's first book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, which was pretty much just a collection of essays, and was also sort of politically opposed to everything I was thinking at the time of its publication. She sort of paints women as dumb marks, but I suppose that is her opinion. In any case, her Rules book is about her unconventional upbringing, and her marriage, and her miscarriage, and how life can be happy, and life can be sad. Frankly, it sort of feels like "book contract fulfilled." I don't know why. She sort of speeds through life at a high rate, and maybe she doesn't want to think about the deep, dark things, and maybe that's OK if you want to write a magazine article, but maybe a book demands more. Or maybe her rules are the ones that apply.