ariel leve

An abbreviated life

An Amazon Best Book of the Month

Featured on NPR Weekend Edition

“Mesmerizing... A portrait of something familiar gone wildly, tragically awry.” — The New York Times

In this extraordinary memoir, Ariel Leve takes us through the looking glass into the life of an only child growing up under siege. The unconventional world Ariel inhabited was dominated by her mother, a gifted but unstable poet without boundaries or self-restraint. Mother and daughter lived in a penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which was the setting for raucous parties that attracted New York’s cultural and intellectual elite: Gloria Steinem, Norman Mailer, and Andy Warhol, to name a few. For all its glamor, this was a universe that was neither predictable nor safe.

With her beloved father living in Southeast Asia and the death of a nurturing caretaker, young Ariel was left to navigate an emotionally perilous landscape alone. It took four decades before she was able to make sense of the aftershocks of childhood, which eventually necessitated a voyage in secret to the other side of the world. Unflinchingly, and with ferocious candor, Leve trains her writer’s eye on the harrowing circumstances of her life with (and without) her mother, and transforms the chaos into art.

In stripped down, elegant prose, Leve paints an indelible portrait of her upbringing and the long fight to tunnel her way out of the darkness. The drama of her journey proves to be as exhilarating as it is painful and, ultimately, emancipating. An Abbreviated Life heralds the arrival of a fearless new voice in the literary firmament.

Ariel Leve is an award-winning journalist who has written for Esquire, the Guardian, Financial Times Magazine, the Telegraph, the Observer, and the London Sunday Times Magazine, where she was a senior writer and a columnist. At the British Press Awards she was short-listed twice for Interviewer of the Year and Highly Commended twice. 

Published by HarperCollins in 2016.

More praise for An Abbreviated Life:

"Sometimes, a child is born to a parent who can't be a parent, and, like a seedling in the shade, has to grow toward a distant sun. Ariel Leve's spare and powerful memoir will remind us that family isn't everything."— Gloria Steinem

“My latest favorite. . . Ariel Leve grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, wanting for nothing except everything that matters to a kid: safety, security, predictability, unconditional love. Her dad lived in Southeast Asia, and her mom was needy and wildly unpredictable, and saved her charm for drunken revelers who partied loudly while Leve tried to fall asleep. . . . As an adult, she once crossed paths with a former party guest, who told a mutual acquaintance, ‘I always wondered how that little girl would survive. I thought her only choices were suicide or murder.’ To learn how Leve saved herself, you must read this distressing and inspiring book.’” — The Miami Herald
“Leve…writes in beautiful, staccato sentences and weaves her own story together masterfully.” — Evening Standard  
“Leve’s prose is soulful, cryptic, musing.” — The New York Observer
“The staccato style of this searing memoir enhances the harshness and emotional power of what is a frightening story by a brave author, who resolutely describes herself as ‘a long-distance runner through the canyon of childhood’—a modest understatement. An unstinting portrayal of psychological abuse, both insightful and precisely told.” — John Irving
 “An Abbreviated Life adds a harrowing chapter to the great tragi-comedy called “We Don’t Get To Choose Our Parents.” Ariel Leve’s extremely readable memoir is, at its heart, a story about surviving childhood—a trick we must all perform. Even in its raw extremes, her story is a universal one.”
— Richard Ford
“Out of a childhood that seems just about impossible to have survived, Ariel Leve has written a haunting, indelible story that becomes its own form of redemption. This is an act of bravery that strikes me not only as a literary achievement, but a human one.” — Dani Shapiro
An Abbreviated Life (Harper), an explosive new memoir from acclaimed journalist Ariel Leve, chronicles Leve’s dismal childhood under the primary care of her riveting, glamourous, intellectual, and ultimately incredibly destructive mother. . . . In the company of captivating memoirists Mary Karr and Alexandra Fuller.” — Elle magazine
“Unsparing. . . . riveting and evokes with clarity the emotional turmoil of being subjected to the constant needs of a narcissistic parent.”
The Guardian
“Leve’s powerful story of surviving her brutal childhood demonstrates that contentment can be found.”  — Publishers Weekly
“A candid rendering of pain and survival.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Leve writes of learning to be constantly on guard, living ‘an abbreviated life,’ and how she finally found her way out. Hers is an unsentimental tale, both cautionary and heartening.” —
“Exquisitely written.” — The Sunday Times
“A powerful and frequently devastating account of a childhood without boundaries and dominated by loneliness, chaos and fear. Leve’s recollections can be brutal but are made digestible by the elegant sparseness of her prose.” — The Guardian
“Electric reading . . . brave, calm testimony.” — The Spectator


It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

“A funny, smart, delightfully cranky book about everything from Facebook to dating to Angelina Jolie’s dinner conversation. If Fran Leibowitz didn’t have her famed case of writer’s block, The Cassandra Chronicles is the kind of book she might publish.” — A.J. Jacobs  

Meet Ariel. Her glass is half empty . . . and leaking. If someone tells her everything will be okay, she asks: How do you know? If there's a wrong thing to say, she'll say it. If there's a downside to see, she'll see it. She lives in a permanent fear of what's to come. But at least she's prepared. 
In these witty and entertaining tales from the front lines of woe, Ariel highlights the humor in our everyday anxieties and delivers insight that will ring hilariously true if you are inclined to view the world through graytinted glasses. So whether you've been dumped by the love of your life, lost your job to the guy in the cubicle next to you, said the wrong thing at the party, or weren't invited to the party at all, Ariel is here to remind you that it could be worse, you could be her. 

Published by HarperPerennial in April, 2010.

More praise for It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me:

“Ariel Leve is brilliant and funny and the only other person I know without an oven. Buy this book and keep it close.” — Bill Nighy
“Ariel Leve is the love child of David Sedaris and Fran Leibowitz. An original and funny voice…The flip side of Sex and The City. Insightful and sharp—this is a very funny book written by a woman who knows how to laugh at herself and her insecurities.” — Joan Rivers  


1963: The Year of the Revolution: How Youth Changed the World with Music, Art, and Fashion

 “A lively, insightful read about a transformative year.” —Dan Rather

Ariel Leve and Robin Morgan's oral history 1963: The Year of the Revolution is the first book to recount the kinetic story of the twelve months that witnessed a demographic power shift—the rise of the Youth Quake movement, a cultural transformation through music, fashion, politics, and the arts. Leve and Morgan detail how, for the first time in history, youth became a commercial and cultural force with the power to command the attention of government and religion and shape society. 
While the Cold War began to thaw, the race into space heated up, feminism and civil rights percolated in politics, and JFK’s assassination shocked the world, the Beatles and Bob Dylan would emerge as poster boys and the prophet of a revolution that changed the world. 
1963: The Year of the Revolution records, documentary-style, the incredible roller-coaster ride of those twelve months, told through the recollections of some of the period’s most influential figures—from Keith Richards to Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon to Graham Nash, Alan Parker to Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton to Gay Talese, Stevie Nicks to Norma Kamali, and many more. 

Published by HarperCollins in 2013.

More praise for 1963: The Year of the Revolution: How Youth Changed the World with Music, Art, and Fashion
“A vivid and exhilarating guide to the year that revolutionized pop culture and shook the world, told by the movers and the shakers, themselves.”
— Mick Brown, author of Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

 “An extraordinary year, a great cast of characters, a terrific book.” — Sir Alan Parker