A slender, beautifully bound blue hardback showed up on my desk. Its pages were creamy, its typeface clear in a formal, old-fashioned way. Each page number was picked out in scarlet. It was a book to put Kindle out of business, so covetable that, I almost thought, it scarcely mattered what it contained. It was then I noticed its curious title, “Things I Don’t Want to Know,” and a quotation, picked out on the cover in pink type: “To become a WRITER I had to learn to INTERRUPT, to speak up, to speak a little louder, and then LOUDER, and then to just speak in my own voice which is NOT LOUD AT ALL.”
The writer is Deborah Levy, shortlisted last year for the Man Booker for her marvellous novel “Swimming Home.” “Things I Don’t Want to Know” is published by Notting Hill Editions, a small, choice, independent publisher committed to “reinvigorating the essay as a literary form.” They came up with the idea of commissioning writers to respond to essays of distinction. Levy has had George Orwell’s “Why I Write” (1946) at her elbow.