Posts Tagged Ariel Leve

STEELE PICKS: Best Books of 2016

quite delayed on posting my year-end list.

here are the best books of 2016 [not ranked]:

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An Abbreviated Life: a memoir by Ariel Leve [Harper]
–gorgeous writing, sad story. resilience. My parents got divorced when I was around the same age and I only have a few isolated or vague memories.

alligator-candy

Alligator Candy: a memoir by David Kushner [Simon & Schuster]
David Kushner’s older brother Jon disappeared one day on a bike ride to get candy and two men savagely murdered him, sodomized him postmortem and mutilated his body. It’s a horrific event to happen in one’s family. Only four at the time, Kushner didn’t quite understand the full impact. He missed his brother but didn’t know the complete details. Now a journalist, he decided to revisit the case and provide a voice for and memory of his brother. Through compelling prose and devastating emotion this memoir potently addresses murder and its effect on the family. full review

future-sex

Future Sex by Emily Witt [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
Future Sex reads as a fascinating sociological study on sexuality that delves into orgasmic mediation, internet porn, webcams, Burning Man and polyamory. Witt combines personal experience with research and reporting in a darkly amusing, honest and real manner. Witt investigates sites I’d barely heard of: Chaturbate; Porn Hub; Kink.com; Fetlife. She attends an orgasmic mediation workshop [looked up on YouTube and there are tutorials] and travels to Burning Man. She interviews tons of people such as polyamorous Google employees, the founder of OKCupid, a 19-year-old webcammer as well as a woman who creates female-centered porn. Witt doesn’t make a spectacle of what may be absurd. Instead she writes analytically, astutely with brevity and a sharp edge. full review.

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Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson [Harper]
A former ballet dancer, Wilson provides intimate details about New York’s ballet scene. While this isn’t solely a novel about the ballet world, girls straddling the line between youth and adulthood provides fascinating reading. The novel flawlessly describes the razor sharp focus on becoming the best, earning a particular status and securing one’s place in this strange world overflowing with beauty and sacrifice. And what happens to all those girls who aren’t’ quite the best? Those girls who do not make the right school or earn a place in a prestigious ballet company? This absorbing, riveting novel does what a wonderful novel can do: it completely transports readers to a specific time and place in such an effective and specific manner that one thinks about the subject and characters well past finishing the last page. full review.

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Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh [Ecco]
Returning to Bakerton, Pennsylvania—the setting for the 2005 best-selling novel Baker Towers—author Jennifer Haigh again focuses on an energy source and its effects on a small community. full review.

here i am

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
–phenomenal writing. for some reason I waited to read this (maybe because it’s quite long and dense). immediately engulfed in the story of a family coming apart. numerous other elements including being Jewish and Middle East politics. amazing.

lazaretto

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Set in post-Civil War Philadelphia, this historical fiction novel beautifully explores race, class, gender and family. full review.

llucy pear

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon [Viking]
An engrossing and gorgeous work of historical fiction, this novel effectively weaves together issues of class, feminism, wealth, power, mental illness and motherhood. The setting: Cape Ann, Massachusetts, a working class fishing community as well as a lovely coastal summer getaway for Boston’s wealthy. In 1917, the unwed teenage daughter of a wealthy family abandons her newborn daughter under a pear tree outside her uncle’s estate on Cape Ann. A decade later, Beatrice finds herself unexpectedly reunited with the Irish woman raising the determined and spunky Lucy Pear. full review.

modern girls

Modern Girls by Jennifer Brown [NAL]
–The novel focuses on a strong mother-daughter relationship. Brown incorporates historical details which strengthen the plot, setting and characters. For instance in a meeting Rose attends, she urges her comrades to write letters to their Senators to repeal 1924’s Johnson-Reed Act which instituted quotas on the number of Jews that could enter America. While Rose and Dottie don’t share every detail with each other they’ve developed a solid bond and care deeply about each others well-being. Mother and daughter respect and support each other. Despite the decade, the restrictions against women and standard domestic expectations, these women remain strong feminist characters. A sequel set 10 or 15 years on would be greatly welcomed. These characters must be followed up on. Clear your schedule and brew a pot of tea. Once you start this wonderful, detailed novel you’ll want to read straight through. full review.

the other woman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman [Other Press]
This novel bursts with intellectual prowess. It’s witty, provocative and thoughtful about money, class, what it is to have less and desire more, to be educated and smart but not particularly suited to anything. Swedish author Therese Bohman examines societal expectations of what makes a complete life: a good job; a happy coupling; a nice place. All the things by which we define ourselves but realize the innate superficiality of it all. If we focus on the having and not the feeling and the experiencing then we lack integrity, depth and strength of character. full review.

pull-me

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
Pull Me Under is an exquisitely dark psychological thriller which examines identity and place through its compelling protagonist and story. read my complete review.

rare objects

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro [Harper]
–lovely historical fiction set in Boston. Author Kathleen Tessaro adeptly describes both the immigrant North End and wealthy mansions with vivid detail. Superb writing and research merge to tell this wonderful story. a page-turner about class, friendship and the things and people we value most. full review.

sun in your eyes

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro [William Morrow]
–There’s that saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover. Book covers visually connect a potential reader to the book. The cover image makes you wonder what the book will be about. A beautiful, cool book cover sets expectations. On the cover of The Sun in Your Eyes is a photo of two women with a definite 70s rocker chic. What’s going on between these two women? It’s a 1974 photograph by William Eggleston and drew me right in. I’d also just seen the photo in the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me which features this photo. The blonde was Alex Chilton’s girlfriend. full review.

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The Vegetarian by Kang Han [Hogarth]
–I’ve been a vegan for about eight years and am not too thin. Due to psychiatric meds I need to lose weight. I stopped eating red meat at 12!/everything but fish at 18 then went vegetarian to vegan. So the being deprived and malnourished because she’s not eating meat is bothering me a tad. Otherwise, the writing is great. It’s dark and suspenseful. Entirely original and engrossing.

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We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge [Algonquin]
–a thoughtful and provocative novel which effectively and creatively winds together numerous subjects from coming-of-age, first love, adolescence, sisterhood, race, anthropology, history and family dynamics. In 1990, a family relocates from Dorchester, Massachusetts to the Berkshires to teach sign language to a chimpanzee at the Toneybee Institute for Great Ape Research. full review.

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best books of 2016 so far

Best Books of 2016 so far. I read a lot of historical fiction and memoir so not surprisingly that’s mostly what makes my list. These are listed more or less in the order read.

the other woman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman [Other Press]

–from my review: This novel bursts with intellectual prowess. It’s witty, provocative and thoughtful about money, class, what it is to have less and desire more, to be educated and smart but not particularly suited to anything. Swedish author Therese Bohman examines societal expectations of what makes a complete life: a good job; a happy coupling; a nice place. All the things by which we define ourselves but realize the innate superficiality of it all.

alligator candy

Alligator Candy: a memoir by David Kushner [Simon & Schuster]

Through compelling prose and devastating emotion this memoir potently addresses murder and its effect on the family. review.

rare objects

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro [Harper]

–Author Kathleen Tessaro adeptly describes both the immigrant North End and wealthy mansions with vivid detail. Superb writing and research merge to tell this wonderful story. Rare Objects is a page-turner about class, friendship and the things and people we value most. full review.

lazaretto

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone [Harper]

–Set in post-Civil War Philadelphia, this historical novel beautifully explores race, class, gender and family. complete review.

25489025

The Vegetarian by Kang Han [Hogarth]

The Man Booker International Prize 2016 Winner It’s dark and suspenseful. Entirely original and engrossing. I’ve been a vegan for nearly 10 years and am not too thin.  I stopped eating red meat at 12 and everything but fish at 18. So the being deprived and malnourished because she’s not eating meat is bothering me a tad.

modern girls

Modern Girls by Jennifer Brown

Clear your schedule and make a big pitcher of iced tea. Once you start this wonderful, detailed novel you’ll want to read straight through. review.

Greenidge_WeLoveYouCharlieFreeman_HC_jkt_FINAL_PRNT.indd

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

We Love You, Charlie Freeman stands out as a thoughtful and provocative novel which effectively and creatively winds together numerous subjects from coming-of-age, first love, adolescence, sisterhood, race, anthropology, history and family dynamics. complete review.

heat and light

Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh [Ecco]

At turns fascinating, sad, infuriating, provocative and authentic, Heat & Light pulls in the reader from the jump. This well-researched, impressive novel exposes many angles of fracking. In order to capture this present day dilemma, Haigh effectively dips into the past with the Three Mile Island disaster as well as coaling. The novel generously addresses an important hot-button topic with sharp prose and a stellar cast of characters as well as an intriguing story-line. complete review.

26890699

An Abbreviated Life: a memoir by Ariel Leve [Harper]

–stunning memoir about an adult daughter coming to terms with her childhood and relationship [or lack of] with her mother..

sun in your eyes

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro [William Morrow]

–from my review: Shapiro delves into the women’s college friendship and its connection to the present. She offers insight, detail and vivid descriptions that allow the reader to understand each woman, their bond and reliance upon one another. Women’s bonds often become broken due to relationships with men (or marriage and families). To this many women (and likely men) will relate. Vivian’s relationship and later marriage to Andy created a rift between the friends. The road trip allows the women to examine their friendship and determine whether or not they should rekindle their friendship, however tumultuous it may have been at times. Jealousy and differing goals certainly pushed and pulled at its core.

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BEST OF 2010: NON-FICTION

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman [Spiegel & Grau]
–at turns daunting, authentic, provocative and spellbinding. The best part is that it’s about women from all different backgrounds bonding to endure a miserable situation.

WAR by Sebastian Junger [Twelve]
–Junger brings much needed attention to this ongoing war on terrorism. So little is written about Afghanistan in the press yet it’s a fierce, exhaustive war. Junger also includes and honest assessment about the war in Afghanistan and the attitudes of the troops.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [Crown]

It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me by Ariel Leve [Harper Perennial]
–Leve is a major pessimist, sets low standards to avoid disappointment, would rather stay in bed than get dressed and made up to go to a party that *might* not be worth her time. She expresses in print what most of us think. She’s observant, sharply critical and savvy. Leve’s irreverent voice and bittersweet outlook mingle in an erudite, esoteric manner.

Half A Life by Darin Strauss [McSweeney’s]
–At 18, Strauss hit a girl while driving and she died. He examines his feelings related to the girl who died as well as the accident and its aftermath. Strauss writes honestly, exquisitely and provides a thorough examination of this profoundly personal experience. Half A Life is a provocative, intense read.

Bitch is the New Black by Helena Andrews [Harper]
–another stand-out memoir by a strong, opinionated, independent woman who has achieved monumental professional success but by society’s standards hasn’t yet hit her stride on the personal front.

FURY by Karen Zailckas [Viking Adult]
–After spending many years binge drinking and writing about it in the best-seller Smashed, Zailckas wanted to examine women’s relationship to anger. In doing so, she realized she had a lot of her own.

A Ticket to the Circusby Norris Church Mailer [Random House]

The Match by Susan Whitman Helfgot [Simon & Schuster]
–Reinforcing the importance of organ donation through the story of two men who never meet but whose lives intersect in a remarkable manner, The Match is a vastly informative and engulfing read.

CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff [Little, Brown]

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: author Ariel Leve

Author of the sardonic essay collection [based on The Cassandra Chronicles she penned for the London Sunday Times Magazine] It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, Ariel Leve sugarcoats nothing as she discusses dating, career, Londoners, New Yorkers, getting older, parties and other distractions that abound as you interact in society. Ariel is like a darker, female Seinfeld– highly observant and realistic. She writes about everything you’ve been thinking.

Ariel resides in both New York and London. She writes for the London Sunday Times Magazine where she has been on contract since 2003. She currently has a column in The Observer Food Monthly called The Fussy Eater. Her work has also been published in the Guardian, Vogue, the New York Observer, Marie Claire, Granta.com as well as other publications. Ariel has been shortlisted for the British Press Awards three times for Interviewer of the Year [2005 and 2010] and for Feature Writer of the Year [2008]. In 2008 she won Feature Writer of the Year from the Magazine Design and Journalism Awards.

photo credit: jonathan torgovnik

I made the mistake of calling Ariel from a busy Panera. I’m classy like that. And the consummate professional. It was very loud and not at all conducive to an interview/ discussion. I also immediately launched into some lecherous fangirl action and admonished her for not following me on Twitter. It was a complete reversion to high school. Rather pathetic. Maybe Ariel appreciates pathetic journalists. I gushed that I loved the book and felt that we could be sisters because I felt the same way about many things she wrote about in It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me.

Amy Steele [AS]: How did you get into writing?

Ariel Leve [AL]: I can’t remember ever not writing. Later in my life I really started my writing career when I got into journalism. It opened up another world for me. I wrote a novel, a play, a script. All sorts of things. Then I started in England as a journalist writing for the London Sunday Times Magazine. I started doing features and interviews. I basically had this career open up to me in England. I won some awards for it and then I had this column.

The work I do is pretty diverse. I wrote this column in my voice. I was writing investigative features for the Sunday Times Magazine and then at the same time, I was also writing a first person column on my observational take on the world. Writing is very rewarding when it works but there are a lot of ups and downs. There’s also a lot of rejection.

AS: The columns appeared in England, so there’s a different attitude about what you were writing. Do you prefer living in New York or London?

AL: New York is very familiar. I have friends here and I grew up here. Irony and my sense of humor seem to go over well in England.

AS: I find in Boston that people misinterpret things I say even though Bostonians are supposed to be sarcastic. I’m very sarcastic. Especially on email.

AL: That’s one of the biggest peeves in my life. Having to explain myself.

AS: So how did you anticipate how Americans would react to this collection?

AL: I’m a hopeful person in my view of the world. The stuff that is darker should make people feel less alone. The whole point of it is that it could be worse. That’s how I get through life, I can laugh at myself. I don’t take myself seriously. I really don’t.

AS: I dated a British guy and I found him kind of cold to date. What kind of differences do you find in friends in Britain and in New York or in dating guys?

AL: It’s harder to make close friends in England. But at this point in my life, it’s hard to find friends to rely on. I’m a pretty solitary person anyway. I have my close friends in England and my close friends in New York.

AS: Once you hit 35, people start to ask, “Why are you still single?” Or “do you plan to have children?” All women are expected to want children or to want to get married.
Why do you think people are so uncomfortable with women being single?

AL: I try to just worry about myself. Personally, I don’t really care what other people think. I don’t really walk around complaining that I’m not a mother. I complain about a lot of things but not about that. Sometimes people make you feel bad that you don’t have a photo to show them of your child and I don’t like to feel bad. In all of the columns I write there’s some sort of emotional authenticity but I use my imagination too.

AS: How to you manage to avoid the negativity getting you down—not that all the columns are completely negative?

AL:I think it’s important to laugh at things. If you take things so seriously that you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re really in trouble. I don’t think there’s anything I can’t laugh at. I’m always the first one to laugh at myself.

AS: How did you figure out what’s okay to complain about and what’s not okay to complain about?

AL: Everyone has their limit and it’s just navigating what you can get away with. When I alienate someone I say, “Okay, that’s too much.” That’s my barometer. But generally I like to write about things that other people find irritating as well because then we can have a mutual connection.

AS: So what makes you happy?

AL: That’s a good question . . . let me think. I can tell you what makes me unhappy. But we don’t have time for that. Coffee makes me happy. Truly, I really look forward to going to bed. When I think about what makes me happy, it’s things I look forward to.

Ariel’s website

Ariel on Twitter

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Buy at Amazon: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

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book review: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

Title: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me
Author: Ariel Leve
ISBN: 978-0061864599
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 13, 2010)
Category: personal essays
Review source: publisher
Rating: 5/5

The instant I starting reading It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, I thought I had found a kindred sista-friend [Feminista author Erica Kennedy gave me the secret password to use that term] but also that I’d have to challenge Ariel Leve. She’s published a book. That’s better than I’ve done in the fifteen years I’ve been writing. I’m jealous of this talented woman and made her follow me on Twitter. She must be thrilled by the content of my tweets. Leve is a major pessimist, sets low standards to avoid disappointment, would rather stay in bed than get dressed and made up to go to a party that *might* not be worth her time. She expresses in print what most of us think. She’s observant, sharply critical and savvy. I tagged a plethora of pages in It Could Be Worse You Could Be Me. Leve’s irreverent voice and bittersweet outlook mingle in an erudite, esoteric manner. Don’t be scared away by her brilliance and underlying charms. She will seduce you with this collection from the first page. Even the optimists among you. She’s that good.

In It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, Leve delivers honest, biting and often amusing opinions. A few choice ones:

Facebook– In real life, my friends are uninterested and distracted. But in cyber life people are very excited (!!!) about everything!!! The levels of emotion are off the charts.

fake children– Why is it that there has to be a career that is preventing me from having a child? As though that must fill the tremendous void I have in my life, being childless and single. Maybe I just don’t want kids. Isn’t that enough?

getting older–Forty is a tricky age because you’re old enough to get away with not going out, but not old enough to get away with not giving a reason.

dating– Whenever someone says they like me I don’t believe them and don’t trust it. But only if I like them too. Wouldn’t it be great if men came with operating instructions to maximize their performance and shelf life?

marriage– There are a number of reasons why I’m unhappy but not having a husband isn’t one of them.

bras– I’ve done my own research and have found the only thing men really look for in a bra is that it comes off fast and easy.

Ariel’s website

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available at Amazon: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

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