Things I Don’t Want to Know

From The Guardian:

Deborah-Levy-Author-010A slender, beautifully bound blue hardback showed up on my desk. Its pages were creamy, its typeface clear in a formal, old-fashioned way. Each page number was picked out in scarlet. It was a book to put Kindle out of business, so covetable that, I almost thought, it scarcely mattered what it contained. It was then I noticed its curious title, Things I Don't Want to Know, and a quotation, picked out on the cover in pink type: “To become a WRITER I had to learn to INTERRUPT, to speak up, to speak a little louder, and then LOUDER, and then to just speak in my own voice which is NOT LOUD AT ALL.” The writer is Deborah Levy, shortlisted last year for the Man Booker for her marvellous novel Swimming Home. Things I Don't Want to Know is published by Notting Hill Editions, a small, choice, independent publisher committed to “reinvigorating the essay as a literary form”. They came up with the idea of commissioning writers to respond to essays of distinction. Levy has had George Orwell's “Why I Write” (1946) at her elbow.

…The opening line hooks one instantly: “That spring when life was hard and I was at war with my lot and simply couldn't see where there was to get to, I seemed to cry most on escalators at train stations.” She writes about depression, without naming it, in a blackly funny way. She describes directionlessness yet knows where she is going: the essay is immaculately planned. There are many wonderful lines: “When happiness is happening it feels as if nothing else happened before it, it is a sensation that happens only in the present tense.” Or: “A female writer cannot afford to feel her life too clearly. If she does, she will write in a rage when she should write calmly.” Even the coat hangers in an irregular Mallorcan hotel are perfectly described: “four bent wire clothes hangers on the rail, they seemed to mimic the shape of forlorn human shoulders”.

More here.