Journalist Ariel Levy was married, pregnant and successful when she left on a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012. A month later, she had separated from her partner, suffered a miscarriage and was no longer financially stable. In her witty, comical and brave account of these events “The Rules Do Not Apply,” Levy’s memoir celebrates the life she was unprepared for, but which she grew to love. Last Wednesday, Levy was joined by Emily Nussbaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic for the New Yorker, to discuss “‘The Rules Do Not Apply” at Strand Books.
In her book, Levy profiles the face in the mirror, and she began her talk by describing the impulse behind writing it.
“Writing, it just came out of my fingers,” Levy said. “I thought it was important to publish it.”
As a woman, she felt that she owed it to other women to write about her own miscarriage, noting that all women experience some sort of drama surrounding their fertility and womanhood — whether it be their period, menopause or a miscarriage.
“I remember I was in the ambulance making sentences in my head,” Levy said. “I think women are shocked by how painful it is, how gutted they feel. It’s not like they had a little medical accident. It’s that they lost their child.”
Levy also read a passage about her partner Amy, who struggled with alcoholism.
“In journalism you always want to put the reader first,” Levy said. “That’s your job as a journalist — [to serve] the reader.”
She commented that this was the first time in her career as a journalist that she had to worry about someone besides the reader. She praised her partner for being understanding and gracious, and she mentioned how Amy gave her praise on publishing the book. One section of the book is written from Amy’s perspective when she found out that Levy cheated on her.
“I wanted to take responsibility for it,” Levy said. “I didn’t want this book to be about a marriage that failed, because one person was an alcoholic. I was trying to show the reader how painful it was to the person I hurt.”
Levy and Nussbaum kept the discussion lively, leaving the audience questioning whether this was a painful account of life’s twists and turns or a comedy show.
“So far I’ve insulted the Gilmore Girls and all novelists!” Nussbaum said. “We should start our own gossip column. Oh my gosh, could you imagine!”
Levy went on to discuss the ending of the book, which leaves out the fact that she fell in love again.
“I didn’t want it to end with ‘and then this handsome man came and saved me from my grief and my lesbianism.” Levy said. “Because that’s not what happened.”
After being asked about where her “lesbianism” went, Levy replied humorously.
“Oh, it didn’t go anywhere!” Levy said. “I’ve always been bisexual. It’s all in there cookin’ away.”
“The Rules Do Not Apply” is written in a journalistic style, maintaining the often light-hearted, very real appeal of a painful comedy.
“I knew how I wanted it to feel,” Levy said. “I knew what I wanted the art to be. I knew what I wanted the point to be. I didn’t think it was cautionary tale, because a cautionary tale is ‘be careful or you could end up like me.’ And I love my life.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3 print edition.
Email Khrysgiana Pineda at [email protected]