Cazzie David has written the year's most neurotic memoir. Here's her secret.
Cazzie David kind of hopes you'll never read her book. Sure, she doesn't want it to be a failure, but she also wouldn't be that sad if people don't really notice that she's written an essay collection about her innermost thoughts. The book, No One Asked for This, is kind of like if a David Sedaris book was written by an anxiety-ridden millennial who grew up in Hollywood. David, who is of course the daughter of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and neurotic-in-chief Larry David, has been dipping her toe into the essay genre for a few years — she writes a column for former Vanity Fair EIC Graydon Carter's new venture Air Mail, among other credits — but the Nov. 17 release is new territory.
No One Asked for This, which is dripping in the specific brand of sarcasm that David's fans and Instagram followers will be familiar with, is a blisteringly honest portrayal of what, exactly, it's like to be her. She describes traumatic childhood vomit-related events, a Curb PA stint gone horribly wrong, and the truly nightmarish few weeks that were her famed breakup with Pete Davidson (who goes unnamed in the essay). And now that she's completed the book, the truly hard work begins: publishing and self-promotion. "I'm trying to figure out what makes me more nervous: doing interviews or going on a date," she says to kick off this interview. "They seem to be the same so far."
David chatted with EW after a day of recording No One's audio version (a process she describes as "brutal") to rehash the things that make her most anxious and, most importantly, just how she got this anxious in the first place.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a very personal book — what's going on in your head as you prepare to have it all out in the world?
CAZZIE DAVID: I really put it all out there, in the book. The scariest part of the process is not really knowing how people will react to that. There is something comforting in the fact that there's so much going on in the world right now and maybe it means there's a little bit less attention on the book than there would be otherwise. I actually have no idea how much attention would be on it otherwise, but I like that it might be overshadowed.
Will you read the reviews?
When I hear that someone even uttered my name to another person, I get severe anxiety. This happens with most things I do, but it's kind of like a different being entered my body and wrote this book and then left, leaving me with the aftermath of reviews and people talking about me, which I'm definitely not equipped to do. For anyone who's read the book, you now my mental state is very anxious and self-conscious, so I'm going to do my best to stay away from everything. Good luck to me.
It can be overwhelming for anyone to write a memoir, so given all this, how did you even convince yourself to write and publish a book?
I've been writing essays since college, and I happen to have written one that I really like, but it was very personal and I didn't feel as though it could serve as a standalone essay or be published in any way. Without being balanced by the full picture of a person, the subject matter could be a little unsettling. It might still be unsettling, even with all of them together in a book. But anyways, I then wrote another, and I kind of kept writing more. And the natural thing to do, at that point when I had a bunch of essays, was to try to sell them as a book.
And you weren't freaked out by that?
Well, this was another case of another being coming into my body and making that decision for me. Her name might have been, like, Victoria. She was a very confident person. She did all of this, because I certainly wouldn't do it. That's all I can say.
The book spans from your childhood to college to more recent life events; how did you decide what moments were the most important, and how did you remember all of this so vividly?
Most of the essays are about things I spent a lot of time obsessing over, so they're definitely ingrained in my memory. The thing about my anxiety, or obsessive thoughts, is that once I eventually stop panicking and take a step back, I'll realize, oh, I actually just thought of a bunch of material. So that was the core of this book: what I was having anxiety over. It does get weird to write something when you're in that state of mind and then months later be editing it while I feel a completely different way. I'll often have new thoughts about something I experienced, or find a better way to articulate things.
A lot of real people factor in to these essays, some of whom remain anonymous (a certain ex-boyfriend) and others who are explicitly named over and over again, like your parents and your sister. Did you talk to them beforehand or get any kind of permission?
My mom's developed a pretty good sense of humor based on having been with my dad for so many years while he was writing Curb and Seinfeld, so she's really good-natured about it. She kind of thinks, what would you do without me, you'd have no material! And my mom has been a good mentor for my sister to learn how to have a sense of humor about it. But I'm really grateful in the end that they were okay with it.
As for my dad, he probably got a little too much enjoyment from the writing that I did about my mother. And he got off easy [in the book], let's just say that.
What is your actual writing process? It's easy to imagine that the daughter of Larry David would be, like, hyper-driven.
I feel really bad about myself unless I spend time writing every day. Just the wanting to feel good is enough to make me sit down and do it. But I'm not like most writers who can write until 5 in the morning and drink coffee all night. I can only write during the day, and I do it from my bed because I don't have a desk.
Writing from your bed makes it sound like you were set up to thrive in quarantine…
Exactly. It doesn't sound good to be someone who would be set up well for this time, but it's true.
In the book, you really acknowledge your privilege whenever it comes up. Is that something you had to consciously add in?
Unfortunately I'm hyper self-aware, to a fault. So it's not even me trying to get ahead of anything. It's just the kind of thing where every time I enter a room I'm like, "I'm sorry. I'm here. I know I'm privileged." I'm aware it's very unappealing, and I don't know what to do about it. It's a horrible quality. But at the end of the day, at least I know I'm not like Don Jr. or something, so I hope people can look past my privilege. It's something I'm aware of and know I have. I know there's a world where I wouldn't have gotten this book published if I didn't grow up the way I did, but that didn't help me write the book. I hope maybe my writing is just as loud as my blatant privilege is.
Do you think this mindset of being hyper-aware is just a byproduct of you being part of a younger, more woke generation? Or was it something that was instilled in you actively while growing up?
I can't say that every privileged person I've ever met lives with this amount of guilt, so I guess I'd have to say my parents had a lot to do with it. And maybe it's self-loathing too.
Did writing the book help you work through any of your anxieties?
I would say that the things I have anxiety about have changed — I'm the same person, I'm just anxious about more grown-up things. I mean, the state of the world is number one on the list, I think everyone feels that weight. But beyond that: My particular phone anxieties change monthly. So currently it's that every time I receive a text I think it's going to be something horrific. Or that we're recording our entire lives, and the things that the phone can betray you with. Like, you saw what happened with Chris Evans. I was actually surprised that people didn't start posting their own nudes out of support.
Sickness is often my number-one anxiety, but as a contrarian I am actually forced to feel differently than everyone else, no matter what. So that has been helpful for my pandemic-related anxiety.
You're going to have to start promoting your book in a manner similar to a book tour, and you just mentioned a lot of technology-related fears. Does Zoom factor in at all?
All manners of communication are bad, but I think getting a phone call is the scariest thing that can happen to you. If anyone calls I'm like, "Why are you calling me, what's wrong with you?" It's as if no one is allowed to contact me. I like Zoom, actually. It's planned. You know nothing bad is happening. I do have stage fright, though, and I am supposed to be doing some appearances and events. Hopefully that same person who came into my body and wrote the book will take over again.