There is something comforting about reading about other peoples’ lives being driven into the dirt. In a completely unsettling, self-loathing kind of way. Reading Ariel Levy’s memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, made me feel better about my life, while simultaneously making me fearful as hell that life is just a cycle of bullshit indented with periods of obliviousness. I say this to say, this was a good book about life in general.
Honestly, I picked this book based on the flashy jacket cover, and then when I read the description I almost put it back. What I expected was a whiny book about someone finding out that open relationships and other forms of rebelliousness don’t lead to happiness. What I got was a plunge of the life of a magazine writer whose life is perhaps more interesting than the lives of those she interviews.
The book started off sad as shit. Ariel Levy just lays everything out there, but after reading about the tragedies that were to come, I felt like I owed it to myself and her to find out what happened. The rest of the story was so brilliantly foreshadowed, I have to use her own words:
“A few weeks ago, my neighbors came by my house on Shelter Island; they wanted to meet the baby. He’s dead, I had to tell them. I felt bad, because what are they supposed to say to that? They said, We’re so sorry. They said, Soon it will be summer and you can work in your beautiful garden. Not exactly, I explained. We have to sell the house; I’m here to pack up. (I know: those poor people.) They were silent as they searched for something safe to land on, and then they asked where my spouse was. I didn’t have the heart to tell them.”
I must be a masochist because I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know what was the turning point. And most of all, I wanted to know how she was gonna get out of her especially shitty situation.
And then I forgot it all. Somewhere between a story of a butch Olympian in South Africa and the tale of how the author fell in love with a woman named Lucy, I completely forgot where this story was headed. I was intrigued by how she moved up in the tough world of magazine writing and survived in New York since before cell phones and 9/11.
When Levy confessed to her spouse that she’d cheated, I felt like the worse had happened. Then she started talking about trying to conceive and my heart really sank. And when she described losing her baby in a bathroom in Africa, I felt sick. It’s amazing to think her life got more difficult from there.
On rare occasions such as this, though, tragedies can manage to be more inspiring than devastating. Instead of showing how life starts, Levy proves that life goes on. She doesn’t get fixed in the past, she just keeps going. She keeps hoping in better futures and ultimately comes across as amazingly human.
After reading it, I have my fair share of fears of life’s imperfections – “Everybody doesn’t get everything,” Levy says. But part of me already knew that. Now I know I’m not alone on this roller coaster.