Real Estate: A Living Autobiography (Paperback)
The final installment in three-time Booker Prize nominated Deborah Levy's Living Autobiography-a boldly intimate meditation on home and the specters that haunt it.
“Three bicycles. Seven ghosts. A crumbling apartment block on the hill. Fame. Tenderness. The statue of Peter Pan. Silk. Melancholy. The banana tree. A love story.”
Virginia Woolf wrote that in order to be a writer, a woman needs a room of one's own. Now, in Real Estate, acclaimed author Deborah Levy concludes her ground-breaking trilogy of living autobiographies with an exhilarating, boldly intimate meditation on home and the specters that haunt it.
In this vibrant memoir, Levy employs her characteristic indelible writing, sharp wit, and acute insights to craft a searing examination of the poetics and politics of ownership. Her inventory of possessions, real and imagined, pushes readers to question our cultural understanding of belonging and belongings and to consider the value of a woman's intellectual and personal life.
Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory, Real Estate is a brilliant, compulsively readable narrative about the search for home.
About the Author
Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, broadcast on the BBC, and widely translated. The author of highly praised novels, including The Man Who Saw Everything (longlisted for the Booker Prize), Hot Milk and Swimming Home (both Man Booker Prize finalists), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, the acclaimed story collection Black Vodka, and two parts of her working autobiography, Things I Don't Want to Know and The Cost of Living, she lives in London. Levy is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature.
“Wonderful . . . Levy, whose prose is at once declarative and concrete and touched with an almost oracular pithiness, has a gift for imbuing ordinary observations with the magic of metaphor . . . the ordinary stuff of modern life, made radiant by Levy's clarifying prose. But Levy never lets us lose sight of how extraordinary, both historically and personally, her casual, roving freedom truly is.” —Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
“Excellent . . . playful, candid . . . a supremely elegant exploration. . . . It is vibrant and kinetic, never predictable and yet always direct. Like all Levy's books, it is as good on the second read as the first, if not better. Few writers are able to give so much so swiftly. Levy's hospitality on the page is a delight.” —Lily Meyer, NPR.org
“What a particular pleasure it is to meet [Levy's] nuanced work on the page through a voice that is witty and bold, masterfully drawing connections between the charged moments of her life.” —Michele Filgate, The Washington Post
“Sparkling with humor and Levy's zest for life, it's a read for everyone who understands that home, though always familiar, can be found in the most unexpected of places.” —TIME
“[A] delightful, ruminative memoir . . . [Levy's] writing is elliptical and episodic, as if tracing the movement of her mind. But it's clearly crafted, with ideas recurring and expanding as the book goes on. And for all we see of her moving through the world and her work, her discussion of the places she writes and mentions of the machines she's written on, she doesn't portray herself in the act of writing. The book feels as if we're listening in on her very thoughts, and yet those thoughts are composed off-screen.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Boston Globe
“Her bracing trio of memoirs - which began with 'Things I Don't Want to Know' in 2013, continued with 'The Cost of Living' in 2018, and now concludes in fine form with 'Real Estate' - explores questions of female autonomy and self-realization (although the author would never describe it in such clinical terms) . . . It's Levy's openness to the quirks and peccadilloes of others - including her best male friend, headed into his third divorce after a dalliance with a much younger woman - that makes Levy's work so invigorating. She's a prober, but not a heavy-handed one . . . Her prose is at once playful and multilayered.” —Heller McAlpin, Los Angeles Times
“Levy's trio of memoirs . . . are undoubtedly pleasant places to spend time. Levy's wry humor and attention to the art of living make her good company on the page, with wisdom weaved in from her touchstone authors, including James Baldwin, Walter Benjamin, and Leonora Carrington.” —Mia Levitin, Los Angeles Review of Books
“As in the other volumes, Levy explores the entwining of writing and life . . . The memoir is a careful balancing act of withholding and revelation. Levy uses the other characters she encounters as a way to refract her own point of view.” —Megin Jiminez, Chicago Review of Books
“Reading Levy is to wander through a lush, associative landscape, where time telescopes and fragments of memory or perception merge in chattily narrated anecdote peopled as casually with literary figures-Marguerite Duras, Simone de Beauvoir, and James Baldwin-as with Levy's close friends and passersby she bonds with at fruit stalls or corner stores. . . . The underlying project is a profoundly serious one, an investigation: In these memoirs Levy asks big questions about the way men and women coexist and the possibility, for a woman, of life as an artist.” —Kirsten Denker, The New Republic
“A set of ocher silk sheets, her mother's death, her electric bike, the time her father was imprisoned in South Africa-Deborah Levy treats every morsel of her living autobiography (Things I Don't Want to Know, The Cost of Living, Real Estate) with equal aplomb. It's like listening to someone's mind. Minus the repetition.” —Helena de Groot, The Paris Review
“An open-hearted examination of philosophy, relationships, and the meaning of home . . . [Levy] adroitly interweaves the tension between an artist's - especially a female artist's - need for solitude and need for family and friends . . . With wit and insight, she takes us where few new books go: into the lively, varied, happy world of an intelligent older woman.” —Patricia Schultheis, Washington Independent Review of Books
“If Virginia Woolf laid the foundation for a female artist's basic needs - a room of one's own and enough money to keep it - Real Estate breaks the idea open.” —Hillary Kelly, Vulture
“The third and final book of Deborah Levy's 'living autobiography' takes on the idea of home and houses in many iterations: the haunted, the literary, and what homespace means to a woman writer. Levy considers much about unreal estate too, as the narrator collects her fantasy dream homes . . . And in essence, puts forth what has always been at the heart of this project, 'to embody and make present a female mind.'” —The Millions
“Levy's fictional books are often nominated for the Booker Prize - and they are excellent. But her autobiographies as a working writer will go down as blueprints for living.” —Donna Liquori, Albany Times-Union
“Beautifully written ... A captivating journey to find a sense of place.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Levy brings her trilogy of autobiographies home in this incandescent meditation on writing, womanhood, and the places that nurture both … her delightful memoir-in-vignettes … Despite what physically occurs, this is a cerebral affair-Levy's mind is both troubled and titillated by the slipperiness of time and place-and her wry wit and descriptive powers are more pleasurable than any plot. Eloquent and unapologetically frank, Levy's astute narrative is a place worth lingering in.” —Publishers Weekly
“Home means different things to different people. For you, it might be where you were born or grew up. It might be your chosen home. In Deborah Levy's latest meditation on living, she explores what possessions and property mean and how they can define us.” —Bustle
“This latest effort is a testament to just how immersive and compelling Levy's writing can be.” —Man of LA Book blog
“[Levy] is an indelible writer . . . [an] elliptical genius . . . The Cost of Living . . . is always a pleasure to consume.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times, on The Cost of Living
“A smart, slim meditation on womanhood informed by Levy's wide reading.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR's “Fresh Air”, on The Cost of Living
“Unclassifiable, original, full of unexpected pleasures at every turn. ... Delivered in gorgeous, disciplined prose, Deborah Levy has crafted a bracing, searing inquiry into one woman's life that manages to tell the truth of all women's lives.” —Dani Shapiro, on The Cost of Living
“An astute observer of both the mundane and the inexplicable, Levy sketches memorable details in just a few strokes.” —Yiyun Lee, The New York Times Book Review, on The Cost of Living