The Rules Do Not Apply

The Rules Do Not Apply

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true. Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much...

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Title:The Rules Do Not Apply
Author:Ariel Levy
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Edition Language:English

The Rules Do Not Apply Reviews

  • Esil

    I didn’t know anything about Ariel Levy – who is a writer with The New Yorker -- but the description of her memoir sounded interesting. Well, it turns out that I would probably be happy to read anything by Levy and I need to look for some of her other writings. Her memoir deals with terrible personal losses she suffered a few years ago. She talks about her childhood, her early years as a writer and her history of relationships. This background is presented as a build up to the events that turned

    I didn’t know anything about Ariel Levy – who is a writer with The New Yorker -- but the description of her memoir sounded interesting. Well, it turns out that I would probably be happy to read anything by Levy and I need to look for some of her other writings. Her memoir deals with terrible personal losses she suffered a few years ago. She talks about her childhood, her early years as a writer and her history of relationships. This background is presented as a build up to the events that turned her world upside down. There is nothing unusual about a memoir focused on loss and grief. But what I liked about Levy’s writing is her unvarnished candidness. She grew up with an uncanny self-confidence that has clearly served her well as a journalist and in the ways she has navigated the world since childhood. While her confidence no doubt came from her upbringing and social position, she nevertheless has an unusual innate sense of who she is and what she wants. A few years ago, life knocked her down, taught her that no one is immune to loss – it turns out some of life’s inevitabilities do apply to everyone. She appears to be using her memoir as an opportunity to re-evaluate what she thought she knew about herself and the world. Still, at the end of the day, her writing is bold and what shines through and what I really liked about this book remain her strong voice and confidence. I’m not sure I would recommend this so much because of the story Levy has to tell, but more because of how she tells her story. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Debbie

    Who is this Ariel Levy, anyway? It’s always a risk to read a memoir by someone you’ve never heard of, or who isn’t a blogger with lots of creds. I’ve been burnt before. But this is definitely a keeper. Levy, at 38, had it all, and was dazed with happiness as she looked forward into the future. And then Poof! It’s gone. In a nanosecond her life turned to hell.

    Levy is an excellent writer. When I read that she worked for

    , I figured her writing would be exceptional, and it is. The sto

    Who is this Ariel Levy, anyway? It’s always a risk to read a memoir by someone you’ve never heard of, or who isn’t a blogger with lots of creds. I’ve been burnt before. But this is definitely a keeper. Levy, at 38, had it all, and was dazed with happiness as she looked forward into the future. And then Poof! It’s gone. In a nanosecond her life turned to hell.

    Levy is an excellent writer. When I read that she worked for

    , I figured her writing would be exceptional, and it is. The story has good bones: both the sentence structure and vocabulary are sophisticated, the language is beauteous, and the pacing is good. There’s even suspense—at times I felt like I was reading a novel. And like in a novel, she starts with telling us that a big terrible thing happened to her, and then she doesn’t tell us exactly what it was until way later in the story. (The big terrible thing is that she lost her child, her spouse, and her house—no spoiler here; she tells us this within the first few pages.) So the whole time, I was on pins and needles, wondering how she ended up with all the important things in her life gone. The in-between story—a little about her parents, her climb to success, her marriage, her bad choices, her writing assignments—is fascinating. (One assignment, about an intersex runner in South Africa, is particularly interesting.) It’s heartbreaking to realize that this is not a made-up story, that a real person felt real pain. It also shows that bad things and real pain happen whether you’ve had a good, easy life or not.

    Levy is a journalist. Journalists sometimes only supply the facts and tell dry, unemotional stories. That is not the deal here. She’s very self-aware. She analyzes her actions and feelings, constantly reflecting on what she did and shouldn’t have done. Before her tragedy, she was cocky and proud that she was living a successful, unconventional life. After the tragedy, she was devastated. She conveys her emotional state well; I felt sorry for her, and even more so because she didn’t beg me to.

    Here is what she says about her grief:

    And she has lots of other gems (not related to grief). I’m controlling myself and only showing you a few. This is very hard.

    What sticks in my mind the most (besides the horrific event itself) is the guilt she felt. She will forever be tormented by the question of whether what happened was her fault. (I wonder the same thing about her, though I try not to.) No amount of success, no distractions, no new relationships, will work to rid her of that feeling.

    A weird and only sort-of-funny thing happened while I was reading this, and it drove home the idea that I make assumptions, sometimes false, based on how society has trained me. I was sure I had read at the beginning of Levy’s story that she had lost her husband. (I also assumed she lost him and her baby in a car wreck or some other kind of wreck. Don’t ask me why.) In the middle of the story, we learn that she married a woman. I kept thinking that she must have remarried a man later. When is the husband going to enter the story? The book is almost half over and there’s no sign of him! So she has to divorce her wife and remarry pretty quick here if she’s going to finish her story. I went back and reread the beginning few pages. Guess what. She had never said “husband!” She had said “spouse.” I had assumed she had been married to a man! Wow! Shows me a thing or two!

    So, it tells you something when you see that the Complaint Board is missing. Yep, I loved this book. And the icing on the cake is that Levy knew my favorite writer of funny, Nora Ephron (although she mentions her only in passing). I’ll for sure be checking out other books and articles by Levy. She’s one smart writer.

    Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  • Roxane

    Hmm. The writing on a sentence level is exquisite. Levy's vocabulary is just superb. This is an interesting book. Levy demonstrates self awareness and is willing to put herself on the page in uncomfortable but compelling ways. The end of the book is a mess. The last few chapters are just baffling given the strength of what precedes them.

    There is also this awkward strain of unexamined white girl privilege throughout. Now, is such examination mandatory? Of course not. But whew. The lack of it is

    Hmm. The writing on a sentence level is exquisite. Levy's vocabulary is just superb. This is an interesting book. Levy demonstrates self awareness and is willing to put herself on the page in uncomfortable but compelling ways. The end of the book is a mess. The last few chapters are just baffling given the strength of what precedes them.

    There is also this awkward strain of unexamined white girl privilege throughout. Now, is such examination mandatory? Of course not. But whew. The lack of it is pronounced.

    Still enjoyed this. The writing is just that good.

  • Diane

    This memoir got a lot of hype, some of which is justified.

    Ariel Levy has some strong passages in the book, but parts of it felt padded and unfocused.

    is an extension of an article Levy wrote in The New Yorker on a horrible miscarriage she suffered while reporting in Mongolia. The story of the miscarriage is heartbreaking, along with her grief when she later lost her spouse, Lucy.

    "For the first time I can remember, I cannot locate my competent self — one more missing person

    This memoir got a lot of hype, some of which is justified.

    Ariel Levy has some strong passages in the book, but parts of it felt padded and unfocused.

    is an extension of an article Levy wrote in The New Yorker on a horrible miscarriage she suffered while reporting in Mongolia. The story of the miscarriage is heartbreaking, along with her grief when she later lost her spouse, Lucy.

    "For the first time I can remember, I cannot locate my competent self — one more missing person. In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I'm disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life. I am thunderstruck by feeling at odd times, and then I find myself gripping the kitchen counter, a subway pole, a friend's body, so I won't fall over. I don't mean that figuratively. My sorrow is so intense it often feels like it will flatten me."

    The first part of this book is the strongest, and I enjoyed reading how Levy became a writer and reporter. However, this memoir is also frustrating in that she makes several bad relationship decisions, and it made me want to put the book down and give her a tough-love lecture. And Levy comes across as cold toward Lucy, who was dealing with an alcohol addiction. The last section of the book is especially unfocused — everything after the details of her miscarriage were kind of a rambling mess.

    And about that miscarriage scene... it was so gory that it was brutal to read. I've noticed a terrible trend in the media world of pushing everything to extremes, especially scenes of violence and trauma. I see this in the movies we watch, in TV shows and on the news, and also in the shocking personal essays that are posted online and spare no bloody detail. I've wondered if this is all a result of internet algorithms, with the most horrific stories getting the most clicks, so publishing companies assume

    wants to see more horror. But I don't. I'll be fine if I never again read another awful miscarriage scene.

    I generally enjoy memoirs, and in the end, I'm glad I read this and I will remember Levy's story for a while. I would recommend

    to readers who like emotional memoirs. Just be braced for some painful scenes.

    "Until recently, I lived in a world where lost things could always be replaced. But it has been made overwhelmingly clear to me now that anything you think is yours by right can vanish, and what you can do about that is nothing at all. The future I thought I was meticulously crafting for years has disappeared, and with it have gone my ideas about the kind of life I'd imagined I was due. People have been telling me since I was a little girl that I was too fervent, too forceful,

    . I thought I had harnessed the power of my own strength and greed and love in a life that could contain it. But it has exploded."

    "Daring to think that the rules do not apply is the mark of a visionary. It's also a symptom of narcissism."

    "The fear of ending up like [my grandma], cutting coupons in a one-room efficiency surrounded by strangers, made me vigilant like my parents, anxious that the poverty of our ancestors was always just one wrong move away."

    "I wanted ... what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can't have it all."

    "In a strange way, I am comforted by the truth. Death comes for us. You may get ten minutes on this earth or you may get eighty years but nobody gets out alive. Accepting this rule gives me a funny flicker of peace."

  • Pouting Always

    I'm just going to talk openly about what happens in the memoir because it seems as though it's mostly all out there as is, and so I don't want people yelling at me about spoilers. The literal summary provided makes even the miscarriage clear. Ariel Levy was thirty eight when she got pregnant, before which she had been ambivalent about having a child. Ariel wanted a child but she also wanted to pursue her ambitions in journalism and create a financially stable life for herself. Her desire to live

    I'm just going to talk openly about what happens in the memoir because it seems as though it's mostly all out there as is, and so I don't want people yelling at me about spoilers. The literal summary provided makes even the miscarriage clear. Ariel Levy was thirty eight when she got pregnant, before which she had been ambivalent about having a child. Ariel wanted a child but she also wanted to pursue her ambitions in journalism and create a financially stable life for herself. Her desire to live outside of traditional expectations led to a life of travel and enjoyment. Yet one can not have everything, all choices have trade offs, and waiting so long to get pregnant meant Ariel eventually ended up having no children. This was only one of the many choices that lead to the implosion of the life she had created with her spouse Lucy, trade offs that eventually did not sustain the relationship, like Ariel's denial about Lucy's drinking. Ariel explores what it means to have freedom and the constant grappling she deals with when she chooses to do things based on her desires.

    I only gave this book three stars because the writing was good and I understand what the author was trying to do. It's just that the memoir felt badly put together. In the beginning when she's in Africa and hints at ruining her life by talking to an old lover it is really distracting because after that she goes back in time and I had trouble for a while making out what she was talking about and what the time line of things were. Also it just didn't feel like things fit together, she writes about her childhood and meeting Lucy and her mentor but for some reason I wasn't sure what I was supposed to understand when I put all of that together. I know that human beings aren't neat narrative packages but I can't stand the way memoirs always do this. No one is interesting enough that I want to read about their life honestly, unless there are larger points being made.

    It's really sad that her child died, and it was an awful thing that she had him in the bathroom. I even empathize with how much it must have hurt to have to end her relationship with Lucy. I know life is messy but it's not really something I want to read about. And at the end she just lists daydreams about where her life might go next. Ariel mentions that she loves to journal and maybe the appropriate place for all of this was in a journal. It didn't really reveal anything new for me. Like wow choices come with trade offs. The most interesting stuff might have been her discussion of how hetronormative gender roles play out in her own relationship but it also just made me dislike her because she keeps talking about how it's Lucy's job to take care of her. Maybe if Ariel just stopped thinking about herself for once then her relationship wouldn't have imploded. You can't put pressure on your spouse to provide, cheat on them while they try to build their company, be in denial about their addiction, and then turn around and leave them when you miscarry and they are in rehab. Did she really think that would work out.

    I don't dislike Ariel and I don't think shes a bad person. We all make regrettable decisions. It's just hard to feel sorry for her when she could've stopped most of the problems from arising with Lucy. I honestly did really feel awful about the whole pregnancy thing though. That was one of the only things that I didn't feel like were on her. She had waited too long to have a child yes, but it's hard as a women to decide to have kids when it can limit ones autonomy so enormously. Anyway Ariel is a really great writer but I didn't get anything out of this memoir but that might not be on her really, I usually always end up disliking memoirs. I do try though.

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