Playwright and Author Deborah Levy Finds There Are Some ‘Things I Don’t Want to Know’ [REVIEW]

Deborah Levy

In her intimate new essay, Things I Don’t Want to Know, Deborah Levy takes a close look at what it means to be a woman writer in modern society. (Photo by Sheila Burnett)

Surprising things make her cry. Trips to Spain bring her peace. Notebooks hold her observations, even when she can’t recall why she records them in the first place. For novelist, playwright and poet Deborah Levy, writing is a very personal thing… especially as a woman. In her insightful and intimate new essay, Things I Don’t Want to Know, she reveals what it is like to be a female writer in today’s world. 



Riding up (not down) on escalators brings her to tears. So does flying with strangers and taking a car up a mountain to a little known hotel on Majorca. There’s something about the act of ascending that tugs at her emotions.

And when it comes to emotion, lessons can be learned from the most unlikely sources, such as an avant-garde actress who reminds Levy that it is impossible to convey emotion in a surreal way. They must be experienced and put on display. Even whispers will be heard if they are infused with enough passion.

Perhaps that is why everyone in the little Catholic villages of Spain speak and live so loudly, Levy muses, and why she is fascinated by women who are weary of ritual, defy convention, and make their own rules to live by.

Things I Don’t Want to Know is a slim volume with a big goal. It explores how to live a life that is rich and vibrant, more right than wrong. In doing so, it spans decades and continents and incorporates Levy’s personal history, even as it studies gender, literature, and philosophy. It also takes a close look at the reasons why Levy writes, and uses so many different genres when doing so, always from the feminine perspective.

What does that say about her? And how does it shape her craft? What does the act of writing teach her about herself and the world around her? These are only some of the questions Levy tackles here, and in doing so, she reveals her own motives and establishes her place in the literary canon. But she also teaches us a thing or two about our need as writers to put pen to paper, why it is important to pay attention to external and internal voices, and how the act of writing helps us make sense of the world around us. Profound, nuanced and unforgettable, Things I Don’t Want to Know is essential reading for every writer.


Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, widely broadcast on the BBC, and translated into 14 languages.

The author of highly praised novels, including Hot Milk and Swimming Home (both Man Booker Prize finalists), The Unloved, Billy and Girl, and the story collection Black Vodka.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she currently resides in London.

By Deborah Levy
128 pgs. Bloomsbury. $16.

Purchase Things I Don’t Want to Know at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bloomsbury, Books-A-Million, and IndieBound.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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