FREE TO BE

Geist - - Endnotes -

In para­graph 2 of Ariel Levy’s pref­ace to her mem­oir The Rules Do Not Ap­ply (Ran­dom House), she writes: “In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house.” Oh, no. She launches chap­ter 1 with a child­hood mem­ory of play­ing a game with her dad. She al­ready knew she could be any­thing she wanted. Her love of ad­ven­ture, “the crack­ling fas­ci­na­tion of the un­fa­mil­iar.” Al­ways the writ­ing: “the so­lu­tion to ev­ery prob­lem—fi­nan­cial, emo­tional, in­tel­lec­tual.” Her story pow­ers along; even­tu­ally she will ar­rive at the start, re­turn­ing to the losses set down in the pref­ace, losses so ter­ri­ble we won’t mind if she chick­ens out. But she won’t. Writ­ing for New York mag­a­zine, fall­ing in love at age twenty-eight. “I got mar­ried a few years later—we all

did.” Fly­ing off to Africa “to re­port the most am­bi­tious story of my ca­reer,” about Caster Se­menya, the pow­er­ful young run­ner from Lim­popo who has un­der­gone many a “gen­der test­ing” exam be­cause some col­leagues and of­fi­cials be­lieve Se­menya is a man, or more man than woman. Then back to the USA and Levy’s mother, who pre­pares meals with “no-non­sense com­pe­tence, spunky pride, and seething re­sent­ment,” and who says, fre­quently and with vigour, “You never want to be de­pen­dent on a man. You have to make your own liv­ing.” Then Levy fall­ing for the beau­ti­ful Lucy through a wild, wan­ton, al­co­hol-drenched courtship. Then a lunch of sushi with David Rem­nick, who hires her as a staff writer for the New Yorker. Writ­ing writ­ing writ­ing. Turn­ing thir­ty­five, now or never for chil­dren. Then in­sem­i­na­tion. How about “one last brush with free­dom” be­fore turn­ing to her life with spouse and kids? “My doc­tor told me that it was fine to fly up un­til the third trimester. When I was five months preg­nant, I ac­cepted an as­sign­ment in Mon­go­lia.” I can’t tell you any more with­out wreck­ing it. Please read this book. Ev­ery­one’s a mem­oirist, but this woman is a writer. —Mary Schendlinger

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