“Everybody’s Talking About Me”: Honor Levy, by Annie Hamilton

honor levy

Honor Levy wears Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories (worn throughout) Bottega Veneta.

In an interview last year, the musician Jack Antonoff caustically questioned whether Dimes Square would ever produce a legitimate cultural export. Enter Honor Levy’s first book, My First Book, an earnest, zeitgeisty collection of stories assembled by Penguin in which Levy breathlessly investigates pill-poppers, identity politics, and microcelebrities at light speed. The California-bred writer, who formerly hosted the podcast Wet Brain with Walt John Pearce, crams themes like love and faith into a hyper-online language loosely based on English, referential and ironic to a degree understood maybe only by doomscrolling zoomers. A fated profile in The Cut spurred a frenzy of internet discourse on My First Book, but Levy welcomes criticism. “I’m not asking you to agree with me. In fact, I’d be happier if you didn’t,” she quips in “Cancel Me,” one of the book’s crescendos. So when the deeply Honor-pilled actor and writer Annie Hamilton, who set off her own tornado of tweets with a provocative essay in GQ last week, calls her up in the afterglow, Levy unloads the clip on meta-text, self-sabotage, and becoming the ultimate literary scapegoat. —MEKALA RAJAGOPAL


ANNIE HAMILTON: Can you hear me? Honor, are you not revealing your face to me?

HONOR LEVY: No, no. I will. I just couldn’t get the angle right.

HAMILTON: Oh, thank god. Where are you?

LEVY: Adam and Maya’s.

HAMILTON: Do you think you perform well on Zoom?


HAMILTON: I know. This is not the form for me either. But you can smoke, and I can smoke, and that’s the upside.

LEVY: I borrowed Adam’s vape for this because I knew you would be smoking and I’d be jealous. [Laughs]

HAMILTON: Was getting interviewed a childhood dream of yours?

LEVY: I remember a post you made where you were wishing you were Drew Barrymore on Letterman. I don’t know if I dreamt of that as a teenager, but I definitely dreamt of having a “what’s in my bag” listicle.

HAMILTON: [Laughs] That’s yours.

LEVY: And as a kid I definitely did the joke Academy Award speech, like, “Oh my god, it’s so heavy. I didn’t expect it to be. I’d like to thank the Academy.”

HAMILTON: Was being an actress your first dream?

LEVY: Not at all, because even as a kid in acting class, I knew I wasn’t good at it. I just really liked it and I loved being around actors. 

HAMILTON: Do you still love being around actors?

LEVY: I think so, but I’m not going to seek them out.

HAMILTON: [Laughs] I never want to seek an actor out again ever in my life. When did you decide that you were going to become a writer?

LEVY: In fourth grade, we learned about poetry and I thought that would be a cool thing to do, but I’m not sure if people are still up to it. And then in acting class we did an assignment where we wrote our own monologue and I thought, “This is fun.” Then in college, I just wanted to have a Tyrant book.

HAMILTON: Were you a childhood diarist?

LEVY: I wish. I always tried, but it was too self-referential for me even back then.

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HAMILTON: You weren’t doodling? Your mom is a makeup artist, correct me if I’m wrong, for big time Hollywood movies. I always picture you in the makeup trailer with your little diary writing about all of the actors around you.

LEVY: No. Every time I would get a notebook, I’d write, “Dear future self,” and stuff, but I was too perfectionist that I would get too caught up in it. I felt like my diary was too try-hard. I was like, “Dear Kitty, we have to leave for Amsterdam.”

HAMILTON: [Laughs] I have a great respect and love for Anne Frank, though. I grew up with a postcard of Anne Frank on my fridge, so she always meant something to me. This is so narcissistic, but I took Benadryl a couple nights ago and I tripped out on how perfect I felt my childhood was for a writer. Do you feel that way about your childhood? 

LEVY: No. I feel like my childhood would’ve been perfect to become an actress. I think I’m good at performing. Shout out to Young Actors Studio. It was always some play about orphans we were doing, or it was Biloxi Blues. But your childhood really is a writer’s crate. It’s a one woman show.

HAMILTON: I think I’ve made it that way now. 

LEVY: It’s like Tick, Tick… Boom! or whatever.

HAMILTON: Oh, yes, I love that movie. It’s actually the movie that made me realize I was a writer and not an actor.

LEVY: I think a lot of actors wish they were writers and a lot of writers wish they were actors, like James Franco.

HAMILTON: I don’t think actors wish they were writers.

LEVY: Ethan Hawke.

HAMILTON: Ethan Hawke is a great writer. Did you read his book, A Bright Ray of Darkness?

LEVY: No, but I’ve got to.

HAMILTON: It’s fucking incredible. But I was listening to this Tennessee Williams interview where Dick Cavett asked him about his writing process and he was like, “I don’t answer questions about the process because it’s a total jinx. Once I talk about writing, I’ll never be able to write again.”

LEVY: Whoa. In 90-Day Novel, one of the tips is don’t tell anyone plot elements you haven’t already written because then you’ll feel like you already wrote it. 

HAMILTON: Did you listen to that advice?

LEVY: No, not at all. I didn’t know what 90-Day Novel was when I was writing it.

HAMILTON: I don’t know what 90-Day Novel is now.

LEVY: It’s a 90-day program and by the end of it you’ll have a novel. A couple of my friends and I are starting a 90-day novel group in July if you want to join. But it’s just a book. Ottessa Moshfegh did it. Matthew Davis did it. Olivia Kan-Sperling did it. Wait, it’s really hot and there’s no air conditioner in here.

HAMILTON: You could turn off your camera and take your top off or something.

LEVY: No, I feel like that would change my vibe. I would start acting like a totally different person. I’m going to go in the other room and turn on the air conditioning. Sorry, this is unprofessional of me.

HAMILTON: Your neck looks hot, Honor.

LEVY: Oh, thank you.

HAMILTON: I’m very nervous because I really just think you are a genius among women writers.

LEVY: What about men? Have you classified them?

HAMILTON: I’m not as competitive with them. But there’s a lot of girls I think are hacks. And women are brilliant, I don’t mean to be slamming them, but anyway—

LEVY: I compare myself to other women, but not all women. I guess it’s very feminist of me. I don’t even separate women and men writers of our contemporaries. 

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HAMILTON: Can I ask you about writing your book? Does it feel like an accurate reflection of you now?

LEVY: The book itself?

HAMILTON: Yeah, now that it’s in the past for you.

LEVY: I feel like nothing is a perfect reflection. I wrote the bulk of it while in college. Then my editor Mia at Penguin gave me prompts, and a couple of the others were new. I didn’t ever seek to write something about myself. I don’t think it ever was a reflection of myself, but maybe a reflection of the time, or a vibe, or a moment. 

HAMILTON: We did our first readings together. I’m glad you read your audiobook because the way that you speak aloud is so wild and singular to you. 

LEVY: My dad says that I speak like a South Park character.

HAMILTON: What do you think it means?

LEVY: I think speaking fast is a defense mechanism. If you’re speaking really fast, you can’t doubt yourself. I’m not a very defensive person, but I feel like I should be.

HAMILTON: Were you feeling defensive when your book came out and there was a lot of talk on the internet?

LEVY: Well, it was when an article came out about me that was not really about the book.

HAMILTON: The Cut article.

LEVY: Yes.

HAMILTON: How did you feel about that?

LEVY: I don’t know. I was training this AI on pictures of my face to make a bunch of fake pictures, and I hadn’t been on Twitter because I was making all these pictures of me at protests on both sides, running in the woods, in haunted houses. I was really locked in. And then I got a bunch of texts like, “Yo, I stand with you,” and “Are you doing okay?” I didn’t know what it was about, and then I went on Twitter and had a totally schizo moment where I was like, “Oh my god, everybody’s talking about me.”


LEVY: It was embarrassing, but at the same time, really nice of people to use their energy and time to think about me. I should be very touched by that. Even if they were unhappy, I was happy to bring them together for the moment to rail against the scene. The Golden Bough and Girard say there has to be a scapegoat to make a new society. But there’s nothing very smart that I took away from it besides, like, I’m really not built for this. I’m meant to play a character, but not a character that interacts with the audience. 

HAMILTON: I was curious if it had affected your writing.

LEVY: No. Not that I’ve done a ton of writing since then. But all of the criticisms are like, “This is so performative,” and I already thought of that. I already know I’m annoying. My new thing, it’s not about any world you guys have heard of. 

HAMILTON: I think it just really struck me when I saw all of the discourse about you—I’ve never read Elizabeth Wurtzel’s writing. I was always like, I know Prozac. I don’t need to read Prozac Nation. But Nancy Jo Sales wrote a piece about her where she described how men and women hated her alike. Men just do not like sexy, smart women. Opinionated and pretty don’t fit together. I don’t mean to be cringe, but it was glaringly misogynistic and upsetting to see that because you are very funny and also attractive—

LEVY: You’re gassing me up. [Laughs]

HAMILTON: All these bots and faceless mummies were revealing themselves to be woman haters. I’m a new feminist, though.

LEVY: It didn’t feel super fair, but if that’s what sexism is, then they have to step up their game. I don’t want to do the Taylor Swift defense like, “If you don’t like me, it’s because you don’t like women.” 

HAMILTON: I’m saying it.

LEVY: Maybe you just don’t like annoying people. [Laughs] Women do tend to be the annoying sex. But if you look at the profiles of the people saying the meanest things, you immediately see that their worldview is so incongruent. Negative book reviews are awesome, though. I just haven’t given all the book reviews enough time because I’m still trying to have some confidence in myself. That somebody could read the book and have criticisms, though, I love that. 

HAMILTON: They took the time.

LEVY: But people being like, “Damn, this girl is embarrassing.” Then I click on their profile, and like, we’re probably going to be in the same bar one day. This is embarrassing. And what if I did get some industry power? I wouldn’t make you never eat lunch in this town again. It would be chill. I love a literary rivalry. I even like the Kendrick and Drake thing. I was following that. I love any back and forth, but The Cut thing wasn’t about the book.

HAMILTON: How old are you?

LEVY: 26. Saturn returning or whatever.

HAMILTON: Wow. Do you think that there is a right way or a wrong way to fall in love, Honor Levy?

LEVY: Neither. Every time you fall in love it’s so different. I love to self-mythologize my life, but I never really did that with love. It always felt like, “Now I’m in love.” But now that I’m on my last love, it feels so profoundly and completely different. It sounds cheesy, but real love is really easy. 

HAMILTON: What does last love mean?

LEVY: I’m dating someone who I know I’ll watch them die or they’ll watch me die.

HAMILTON: I’ve never heard someone say last love.

LEVY: It’s from a Dixie Chicks cover. It’s like, “Never going to hold another hand again.”

HAMILTON: I love that. You mentioned just before that you’re not narrativizing, which obviously writing is. Do you feel that the pen is your ultimate source of honesty?

LEVY: That’s a good question because when I was having a crazy writer’s block my editor was like, “Take your phone and do voice-to-text.” I think when you’re in front of a blank document and when you’re talking, it feels like two totally different ways of thinking. If you’re delirious and on a stimulant binge of some sort, you can just become a vessel and say things.

HAMILTON: What is your preferred mode of connecting to someone?

LEVY: I’d say talking. I also just got my first love letter of my whole life and I’ve been trying to think about how to write one back. But the first story in the book, Love Story, was based on a prompt my editor Mia gave me. I had never tried to do that before. I like to have that structure, I think.

HAMILTON: You’re very intense, but I mean that as a big compliment.

LEVY: What’s that Sylvia Plath quote? I saw it on Twitter today. She would’ve been so made fun of today.

HAMILTON: [Laughs] She was then too, Honor.

LEVY: I googled it. It goes, “I’m so pathetically intense, I just can’t be any other way.” I feel her.

HAMILTON: I’ve known you since you were a kid, I guess. And I think of you as someone who I don’t have to second guess when I leave our interaction if you liked me or not, because I’m pretty sure that what you’re thinking is what you’re saying.

LEVY: Yeah. Also, ever since I was a little kid, a big curse I’ve had is feeling misunderstood, but I try to just relish in the joy of it. I want to be misunderstood in a beautiful way. 

HAMILTON: How does one relish being misunderstood?

LEVY: Just accept it. As Bret Easton Ellis always said, “No one ever really knows anyone.” 

HAMILTON: Honestly, Honor, I’m now in a death trap spiral that I’ve ruined your life by fucking up this interview, which is very narcissistic of me. [Laughs] Are you a self-sabotager?

LEVY: Definitely. First semester in college, I failed a bunch of my classes because I wrote the finals, but I didn’t turn them in.

HAMILTON: Wow. Are you socially nervous? 

LEVY: Yes.

HAMILTON: How do you deal with it at parties?

LEVY: I’m in New York right now, and I think all the time about the fact that I’m going to parties where people are going to know about my book. Like, how can you be on the scene when there’s something that obscene? [Laughs] I feel grateful, but it’s very nerve wracking to be here. 

HAMILTON: How many people do you talk to a day?

LEVY: I have two group chats that I talk to probably once a day. Moving from New York to L.A., I definitely felt like my world got really small and a lot easier to manage. I’m terrible at texting back. I probably talk to six people a day. What about you?

HAMILTON: Mine is a wreckage. Mine might be the entirety of whoever died on the Titanic. 38,000. As many people I can get my hands on. Do you think about what you look like in the world as you write?

LEVY: No. I never thought about creating a persona because I probably just would get so caught up in it.

HAMILTON: It’s so hard for me to learn how not to do that. Are you looking forward to anything this week?

LEVY: Matthew Davis’s birthday. He told me to give him a birthday shoutout in this interview. We’re going to Dave and Buster’s trivia night. I’m looking forward to going back to my little L.A. life and writing a long piece of fiction that takes place in a world that nobody can say is any scene.

HAMILTON: Gorgeous. I really admire you.

LEVY: We should hang out while I’m here.

HAMILTON: Yeah, I’m going to call you after this.


Hair & Makeup: Ciara Maccaro using Dior Beauty at Exclusive Artists.

Nails: Stephanie Ida using Manucurist at Nailing Hollywood.

Photo Assistant: Brandon Sheffield.

Fashion Assistants: Talia Cassel and Lili Briceno.

Production Assistant: Gabriel Bruce.