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Honor Levy on Her First Book photo

“They scrolled into each other.” Honor Levy writes in her first book, appropriately called My First Book. “If they could have, they would have blushed, pink pixels on a screen.”

Levy’s writing is post-internet fiction at its most compelling, chronicling lives as “disembodied, laid out still, frozen shining cold in blue light, Liquid Crystal Display.” The collection recalls Madeline Cash’s Earth Angel in that both books speak the language of the extremely online Gen Z It Girl—ironic, surreal, experimental, and sincere when you least expect it. Below read Honor go off on emojis, edgelords, and the panic of plot. 

Describe your (first) book in three words.

My First Book

If your book were an emoji, what would it be? 

It’s so hard to pick just one, like I’m overheating with analogies. There are so many possibilities and so many associative ways to reach an answer. If I remove all meaning and context from the symbol and use only my own pure visual personal instinct I’d probably say 𓆫 or 𖡎. When meaning is added back in they have nothing at all to do with my book. I wish they did though as 𓆫 is an ancient egyptian representing a scorpion used in funerary texts and burial chambers and 𖡎 is a character of the historic stage A-F of the Bamum script, used for writing the Bamum language of western Cameroon. Classic Apple emojis are totally ugly imo, my dislike for them is what got me collecting unicode characters and symbols and kaomojis in the first place, like I almost don’t even want to copy paste these in, but I had so much fun scrolling through every emoji and making little metaphors in my mind so here they are without explanation anyways, 🎡🖇🐇📯🃏🪤 ugh all lined up like that they look so ugly ૮₍•᷄ ࡇ •᷅₎ა.

What’s your book’s Zodiac sign? 

Gemini I think like vibe based but IDK much about astrology so I could be wrong. It comes out May 14th so that would make it technically a Taurus, right?  

Yep. What does your book smell like? 

The black Mr. Sketch marker, Cucumber JUUL pods, Dr Pepper Lip Smacker, spirit duplicator, soggy sugary cereal milk mush, pink rubber pencil shavings, burning toast stroke, pumpkin spice scented hand sanitizer. 

If your book is adapted, what actor needs to be in it? 

Mikey Madison, Ivy Wolk and Dasha Nekrasova would kill it as some of the narrator girls. Finn Wolfhard could play a canceled boy or communist boyfriend. I’d love to work with Amanda Bynes if she was up for it or do a Deep fake AI hologram of her as a tween even though that’s in total poor taste and a disgusting idea especially if they can’t give consent like Lucille Ricksen, Heather O'Rourke and Adrienne Shelly who I think would also be amazing additions to the cast.  Once AI actors exist like Vtubers and Vocaloid stars already do I’d love to cast one. Maybe Hatsune Miku will start acting soon? Tom Cruise, Michael Richards and Joe Keery would make incredible government agents in an adaptation of the story Halloween Forever. 

Favorite edgelord of all time?  

Kathy Acker, Andrea Long Chu, Andrea Dworkin, Abbie Hoffman,Vanessa Place, Ezra Pound, Arthur Rimbaud. I don’t think any of these writers provoke(d) just for provocation’s sake but I’d still categorize them as edgelords of sorts. 

Favorite website? 

Don’t even get me started on this one. I have too many. I love the Internet archive. It’s an infinite rabbit hole, truly a treasure trove, once you log on you’ll never be bored again. Related to writing even with the insane advancements in AI and ChatGPT and the writing games and generative exercises you can make on it with prompts. I still have a soft spot for the text manipulation tools on Language is a Virus

Do you outline or wing it or somewhere in between? 

I’ve always winged it, but I’m trying to learn how to outline now. I’m having fun creating branching narrative charts to visualize plot and possibilities. I also am interested in different outline techniques if anyone has any recommendations. 

If you were a literary critic, what would you say about your own writing? 

Uh I love like imagination hypothetical type questions, but really I have no idea how to think like a literary critic. I think to properly answer this question I’d have to create a whole character with a name and a backstory and a reason they became a literary critic and then write from their perspective and I don’t really think I have time to do that because this interview has a deadline. That still sounds like a really fun project and I will get back to you on it. When I write my fake and imaginary cultural criticism and personal essays, I usually have a whole character built or like a state of mind to enter and right now I don’t have the time to do that, but I want to! I think the easiest option would be to go through my Twitter haters, pick a profile, scroll down their feed and really empathize with them and write from their imagined voice. If I had to bang something out, I’d say something snarky about the title of the book how narcissistic and self mythologizing it sounds, My First Book, i’d write about how the author seems to be unable to imagine characters unlike herself and make some commentary about how dated everything seems without taking into account that the book attempts to take that into account. I think I would be mean because I don’t have the cultural critical literary aptitude to properly critique. I’ll brush up on the art of book reviews and try again sometimes

Where’s your dream writing retreat?

Somewhere I can swim in an ocean with waves everyday. I think that would fix me. I’d like there to be a printer and a cat too. 

What are your most overused words?

This was such a fun guessing game. My first instinct was anime, but it turns out I only used it 7 times. I do think I rely on using anime as an adjective to describe eyes way too much, like it pops up in a ton of stories with different narrators lol. I’ll have to think of some alternatives. My next thought was vampire(s), but I only used it 10 times. For my next guess I asked myself what the book was about and searched up ironic/irony and sincere/sincerity, the sincere won with 14 uses just one use above the ironic. That number still seemed low and this question got me really thinking so I plugged my book into this tool to do some real analysis. I figured that all the obvious highest ranking words (the, she, I, you, and, to etc) would be boring, but scrolling through and seeing that I was the second most used word in the whole book at 1396 uses made me laugh. He was used 460 times and she only 337 times, oof at that gender imbalance. Scrolling down looking for more unique overused words I found that my most overused adjective was little at 72 uses lol. The word baby is used 41 times which relative to other words seems like I definitely overused it, though I never would have guessed. I can only remember actually typing it once. Now comes in with 76 uses, always with 69, real with 62, love with 58 and sorry with 30, not sure if those count as over usage though because they make perfect thematic sense. I used the word stuff 24 times and I think it’s safe to say that’s too many. The site is totally an incredible tool. It also gave me an analysis of my top multi-word phrases “he tells me” and “want to be” tied for my top three word combo at 17 uses each, total bruh moment. I will definitely be playing this game and using that tool to analyze everything I wrote from now on! Thank you for such a fun question. 

If you could get a drink with any fictional character, who would it be? 

Ok that’s a really hard question if I take it seriously so let me name a few, like I’d love to get drinks with a whole big crew and watch everyone interact. For the sake of the question let’s say I’m hosting a party, not a dinner party, but like a chill drink that devolves into a total rager, night on the town. We convene in a bar, have little one on one chats and see where the night takes us. I’d invite Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia early so we could hang out a bit before the night gets crazy. I assume he wouldn't stay long, but he’d vibe with Alyosha Karamazov who I’d ask to invite Lise Khokhlakov. Once she pulled up the party would really start. Hopefully Greg Heffley would come with Rodrick and Phoebe Caulfield would pull up with Holden, I love hanging out with siblings. I think Lise and Greg could really hit it off, but I’d love to introduce him to Holden too. Maybe I’d invite Cecilia Lisbon, because I have a couple questions for her and would love to see her and Phoebe interact, even though I’m not sure if 10 and 13 year olds even vibe, but that’s probably too many young girls for a bar. I also invited Y.T. from Snow Crash, she’s totally mature for her age, but still gotta keep that gender and age ratio right. I’d love to hang one on one a bit with Folly from In Praise of Folly by Erasmus before breaking off into a girls night type vibe with Folly and Y.T, Lise, Phoebe, and maybe Cecelia. Damn crazy how I would straight up be the oldest girl there. I need to grow up. Actually let’s say I rented a house for this event because the party is going to get wild once The Nac Mac Feegles from Discworld, The Cat in the Hat from The Cat in the Hat and Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream come through. We’d kick the kids out, invite some of my real life friends and have a fantastic night. 

What’s a book you wish you’d written?

I’ve never found myself wishing that I wrote a book. I asked a couple people and apparently that’s weird. Every book comes with like it’s own blessings and curses and like could only ever have been written by the person who wrote it. I think maybe a few of the people reacting with disgust to the internet jargon heavy excerpt of my book from the NYT review might like maybe maybe maybe hate it because they think it’s like a stupid easy hacky schtick they could have done and been rewarded for if had they done it first, of course they have more honor, respect and integrity for their craft than to do that hehe but like wishing you wrote a book seems like a fast way to hate a book. Maybe I’m thinking too rigidly about this question. I think I would’ve had a ton of fun writing/compiling The Book of Lists with or I guess instead of David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace. Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough is another contender, compiling and synthesizing all that knowledge was probably an epic process. Now that I’m being less rigid I realize I wish I had written the The Voynich Manuscript so I could know all its secrets. If I wrote it it would also mean I knew all about codes, cryptography or constructed languages or that I could communicate with the divine, channel spirits, go glossolalia mode or that I was a brilliant prankster who pulled an epic hoax. I do find myself wishing that I could write my own versions of books like with my own voice and characters and subject matter but with the structure and conceits of other books like I’d love to write my own version of The Magus By John Fowles, or Viles Bodies By Evelyn Waugh or Demons by Dostoyevsky, but I’m happy to be inspired instead even if what I create through that inspiration pales in comparison to the source material. Oh wait, I wish I had written The Book of Mormon. 

What books inspired this book? 

Not sure I was directly intentionally inspired by any of the following, but I think they were all seared into my brain enough to inspire anything I will ever write. I wish I could say that was true on a sentence or structural level, but I think these are all just like “moodboard” vibes. Feel free to cringe at me I’m just being honest with this total teen fest of a list. Weetzie Bat and the rest of Dangerous Angeles series by Francesca Lia Block, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, In Praise of Folly by Erasmus, Selected Cronicas by Clarice Lispector, Eve's Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. by Eve Babitz, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, Frindle by Andrew Clements, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger, yeah and you guessed it Vonneguet, Ginsberg and Rimbaud and Yeats lol. What can I say, books we read as teens really stick with us or stuck with me I guess. 

I read a bit of Kathy Acker in high school but wasn't into it, towards the end of my books editing I gave her another go and definitely find her inspiring or maybe this is weird, cringe, narcissistic or like too Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert mode to say, but Acker is inspiring and like idk how to say it sounds cringe ugh like I feel like we are inspired by some of the same vibes except I’m not into all that subversive sex stuff. I also recently read Still Life with Woodpecker by Tim Robbins and it blew my mind, I so wish I had read it as a teenager, even so he writes like I have always tried to write. 

I’d like to attempt extreme technical inspiration like on a sentence or structure level, technical level by Nabokov, go Pale Fire mode, but the vibes and like excitement I feel will probably have to suffice. I’ve been taking very direct inspiration, not just vibe based from Nazi Literature in the Americas by Bolaño, Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić and the works of Stanisław Lem and Neal Stephenson while working on my current project. Worldbuilding in an encyclopedic format has really freed me from the panic of plot. 

What author’s (dead or alive) persona is aspirational? 

Norman Mailer, not sure if persona wise, but work wise, I would love to write as much and take the sorts of writing risks he did. 

Favorite recent read? 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (can’t believe it took me this long to read it) and Rip It Up by Kou Machida. 

One word to describe what you’re working on now? 


image: Olivia Parker and Parker Hao