Things I Don't Want to Know (Hardcover)

On Writing

By Deborah Levy

Bloomsbury USA, 9781620405659, 128pp.

Publication Date: June 10, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (7/10/2018)

List Price: 20.00*
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To be published simultaneously with Black Vodka, the Man Booker Prize–shortlisted writer's new collection of short stories, a shimmering jewel of a book about writing.

Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory into a luminescent treatise on writing, love, and loss, Things I Don't Want to Know is Deborah Levy's witty response to George Orwell's influential essay “Why I Write.” Orwell identified four reasons he was driven to hammer at his typewriter-political purpose, historical impulse, sheer egoism, and aesthetic enthusiasm-and Levy's newest work riffs on these same commitments from a female writer's perspective.

As she struggles to balance womanhood, motherhood, and her writing career, Levy identifies some of the real-life experiences that have shaped her novels, including her family's emigration from South Africa in the era of apartheid; her teenage years in the UK where she played at being a writer in the company of builders and bus drivers in cheap diners; and her theater-writing days touring Poland in the midst of Eastern Europe's economic crisis, where she observed how a soldier tenderly kissed the women in his life goodbye.

Spanning continents (Africa and Europe) and decades (we meet the author at seven, fifteen, and fifty), Things I Don't Want to Know brings the reader into a writer's heart.

About the Author

Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts before becoming a playwright. Her plays include Pax, Heresies, Clam, Call Blue Jane, Shiny Nylon, Honey Baby Middle England, Pushing the Prince into Denmark and Macbeth-False Memories. She has also written some novels and was a Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1989-1991.

Praise For Things I Don't Want to Know: On Writing

“A vivid, striking account of a writer's life, which feminises and personalises Orwell's blunt assertions.” —The Spectator

“Powerful.” —The New Statesman

“[Levy] is a skilled wordsmith and creates an array of intense emotions and moods in precise, controlled prose.” —The Independent

“While billed as a response to George Orwell's essay ‘Why I Write,' it is as much an up-to-date version of A Room of One's Own, and, like the Virginia Woolf essay, I suspect it will be quoted for many years to come.” —The Irish Examiner

“I find myself utterly captivated by Deborah Levy's Things I Don't Want to Know: On Writing, a profound and vivid little volume that is less about the craft than the necessity of making literature.” —Los Angeles Times

“Levy successfully weaves historical, political, and personal threads together to form a nuanced account of her life and why she writes. Her graceful memoir/essay emphasizes a woman's need to speak out even if she has to use a quiet voice. For feminists and memoir enthusiasts.” —Library Journal

“Rather than, say, telling the reader to show rather than tell, [Levy] declines to tell us anything and then shows us a great deal. What results is much more valuable than any literal writing guide or any literal response to Orwell would have been. It certainly has greater political import.” —Biographile

“Few essayists have the courage and talent to go head-to-head with George Orwell. Deborah Levy's response to Orwell's iconic piece 'Why I Write' is at once a feminist call to arms, a touching memoir of small moments, and a guide to writing fiction from one of literature's bravest rulebreakers.” —Barnes & Noble Review

“A lively, vivid account of how the most innocent details of a writer's personal story can gain power in fiction.” —New York Times Book Review