Since Lévy published American Vertigo, his controversial treatise on our country's folkways, France's most famous intellectual has become a popular target. In The New York Times, Garrison Keillor told him not to let the door hit him on the way out. But BHL—as everyone, including himself, calls the man—still earns our regard for writing 20-plus books, editing a magazine, being President Chirac's special emissary to Afghanistan, and speaking out on subjects ranging from Marxism to his love of the color gray. So we forgive him for refusing to answer a few of his least favorite questions, such as "My favorite food? What a strange thing to ask."
My favorite U.S. cities, in no particular order: Savannah, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. They're the inverse proposition to places like Buffalo, Detroit, and Cleveland, which are in ruins and left to die.
I've traveled too much to have a favorite hotel. In New York I always stay at The Carlyle, and in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
I write with Papermate Flair pens in every color.
To me cell phones, computers, and BlackBerrys are not gadgets, they're ubiquity tools.
I'm most productive in Saint Paul de Vence. I've written many books at my house there.
One of the first things I do when I arrive at a hotel is make a list of the newspapers I want. All the hotels I stay at know this. It's a ritual.
My shirts are always Charvet—I've had them custom-made for years.
I wake up very early—6:30 or 7—no matter which time zone I'm in.
Americans do not master nature, they simply push it back. Which gives the landscape its incredible beauty—as in the Grand Canyon.
Right now I'm reading Stendhal and Tocqueville, who, along with Kerouac, is my favorite American writer. At the moment.