An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve

I’ve been tearing through books lately. As I’m currently finding fiction so dissatisfying, I’ve been loading up on non-fiction and memoirs. I recently finished Ariel Leve’s memoir, "An Abbreviated Life," which came out a couple of years ago. Leve’s book deals with growing up as the child of a somewhat famous feminist poet who in the 1960s rubbed shoulders with New York’s intelligentsia and women’s lib icons, and a woman who was so narcissistic and such a horrific mother that you have to believe this book because who in the hell could possibly make up that shit?

There is a dualism about her experience that comes through brilliantly. The child who wants to be invisible, and the child who wants to be seen, not merely as an extension of her mother’s narcissism. As becomes very clear, feminism and narcissism are not two sides of the same coin. One is the championing of the self, the other is the indulgence of the self. Other reviewers have commented on what's the point to this book. I think Leve is making an excellent point. That her mother justified her awful behavior either in terms of being an artist or a feminist. One or the other would do; as excuses they weren’t mutually exclusive. What is clear is that neither art nor political theater justified such behavior. The 1960s were a time when art and feminism were the trope du jour, and here you have a small child who really gives three fucks because she just wants to go to sleep because she has school in the morning.

Leve acknowledges that she has paid a steep price for her freedom, and that it’s worth paying. She says this with a wry exhaustion that I can relate to. It’s the weary voice of someone who’s been through an emotional war and learned how to walk away, silently and with resolution, with the painful understanding that choices have consequences.



Debris and Detritus (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Pen and Prejudice (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter

Independent American Booksellers Association