Fran Lebowitz is a sometimes writer who hates tourists, thrives at night and loves a good bookstore
Fran Lebowitz is best known as a cultural critic and humorist with a biting and brutally honest take on modern life in American society. If you’ve never heard of her – imagine a sharper more sardonic Larry David.
Fran Lebowitz entire life is contradiction. You could say she’s a contradiction interested in contradictions. For instance, she despises people (she’s a nervous person) but loves parties. She has numerous friends from Scorsese to Charles Mingus and Toni Morrison but often prefers solitude. Lebowitz never married and is open about her sexuality but not her relationships. She doesn’t believe in gay marriage but is one of the world’s most famous lesbians. She rarely leaves the house and her domestic life consists of reading and eating. But she doesn’t cook herself. She’s a writer but hasn’t published in decades. In fact, she’s more famous today for her writer’s block, than her writing itself. And she’s self-aware to the point she even coined a more precise term for her lack of written output, “writer’s blockade”. Her comedic essays launched her into notoriety but she’s most known for her television appearances.
And just to add to her enigma, she doesn’t own a cell phone. She hates cell phones. In her words, “She has no use for them.” And on top of that she doesn’t have a computer either. The idea of social media is ludicrous to her and she still writes on an old typewriter.
So, I’ll never have to worry about her reading this and labeling me a “pedestrian writer”.
A Personal Life made Public in Interviews and Writing
Fran Lebowitz is the kind of funny that only comes from a deeply curious mind. In interviews, Lebowitz crafts conversations with the vigor and exactitude of an Elaine De Kooning painting. It’s quick, aggressive and surprisingly jovial given its blunt tone.
Lebowitz’ observations are often mischaracterized as just quick, angry complaints on the country, films, urban life, Times Square and everything in between. But upon deeper study, it’s really a thoughtful look into the human condition. Specifically, her social commentary is a love letter rooted in a deep obsession with understanding humans and how we deal with space and things.
The City (Manhattan), Netflix and Scorsese
Her new limited docu-series, Pretend it’s a City on Netflix, is a joyous critique on everything from the state of the art world to cabs in NYC. In the second episode of the limited docu-series Directed and Produced by longtime friend Martin Scorsese, Lebowitz talks all things art. From her time at Interview with Andy Warhol, to the way the art world has changed into the art market.
“You go to an auction and out comes the Picasso, dead silence. Once the hammer comes down on the price, applause. We live in a world where they applaud the price but not the Picasso.”Fran Lebowitz
She got her start with Changes magazine where she met the famed jazz musician, Charles Mingus After her stint at Changes magazine, twenty year old Lebowitz was hired as a columnist by Andy Warhol for Interview magazine . Lebowitz was a social commentator slicing up the page with her words. Her column, “I Cover the Waterfront” was the appetizer for the book that would make her famous, “Metropolitan Life“.
In her collection of essays, “Metropolitan Life” (1978) and “Social Studies” (1981), lebowitz mulls over everyday topics with sarcastic commentary.
And from there she cemented her place as a cultural critic and icon within NYC.
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”Fran Lebowitz
After you finish bingeing the series, don’t fret. There’s a wealth of interviews on youtube to get your fix. You can get started with the clip below.
Kaeley is a contemporary artist and cultural organizer who loves good espresso and a cold Coke Zero.