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The Fran Lebowitz Reader

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,092 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
Fran Lebowitz in
Public Speaking
A Martin Scorsese Picture
Now an HBO Documentary Film

The Fran Lebowitz Reader
brings together in one volume, with a new preface, two bestsellers, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, by an "important humorist in the classic tradition" (The New York Times Book Review) who is "the natural successor to Dorothy Parker" (British Vogue). In "elegan
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 8th 1994 by Vintage
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Jan 29, 2011 Lena rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
Fran Lebowitz is a New York humorist who worked as a columnist for Andy Warhol's Interview before publishing her first collection of comic essays, Metropolitan Life, in 1978. In The Fran Lebowitz Reader, that first book has been re-released in combination with her second 1981 essay collection, Social Studies.

I first heard about Fran after watching the Martin Scorsese-IFC documentary about her, Public Speaking. That she is a fascinating and very funny person is obvious from the outset. Whether or
“All of God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable. The most common error made in matters of appearance is the belief that one should disdain the superficial and let the true beauty of one’s soul shine through. If there are places on your body where this is a possibility, you are not attractive – you are leaking.”

“Sleep is death without the responsibility.”

“Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about
Mar 11, 2009 Kisha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writers-writing
A personal favorite. Her words rhythmically jump of the page--so you've GOT to read it out loud. So caustic. So funny. Lebowitz is so good at making fun--and she's not above making fun of herself. But perhaps my love for this book only proves that I am an elitist snob at heart?

Every writer (of all kinds) should read it.
Jan 15, 2014 Downward rated it it was ok
Let's get this out of the way: Fran Lebowitz is incredibly talented. A razor sharp and reckless wit, cutting up culture in the manner of Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker. She's a wizard of the turn of phrase, of reversing meaning to create a new frame through which to view culture, almost always a humorous one. But Fran Lebowitz is also kind of a jerk, dodging sincerity and sticking it to anyone (and everyone) that doesn't fall into her tiny worldview. The Fran Lebowitz Reader is a compilation of L ...more
Feb 22, 2012 Kira rated it it was amazing
If you’re going to pen complaints from an apartment in Greenwich Village (however modest it may be by New York standards), those complaints are only funny if you understand their relative lack of merit. By which I mean that the hilarity of people like Fran Lebowitz and Larry David isn’t that they don’t know they’re being assholes. It’s that they do know it, and don’t care. I think to some degree that very brand of comedy, if it didn’t originate in New York, is at least emblematic of the people w ...more
Giselle Rodriguez
Jun 15, 2011 Giselle Rodriguez rated it it was ok
Very smart and opinionated, but reads a bit dated for 2011. If you're from her era, there's a better chance you'll appreciate what she's saying (circa the real deal Studio 54). Wish she hadn't hit that writer's block . It would have been interesting to hear her thoughts on NYC, the economy, and society in In other news, the documentary Scorsese did about her for HBO, Public Speaking, is excellent.
Raymon Gottfredson
Dec 02, 2008 Raymon Gottfredson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone that loves to laugh
Recommended to Raymon by: No one.
One of the best cynical humorists in the business. For anyone that loves/hates New York life and smokes. Or doesn't.
Mar 16, 2011 Kris rated it really liked it
Fran Lebowitz would never be friends with someone like me because I would bore her to death. But a girl can dream. Lebowitz is not exactly prolific, and these essays actually were written decades ago. But it is a timeless truth that, as Lebowitz asserts, one should never allow your kids to mix cocktails because it is unseemly and besides, they use too much vermouth. She is not only the urbane, witty, and worthy successor to Dorothy Parker, to my mind she is the female reincarnation of James Thur ...more
Alison Iris Mandelker-Burnett
May 20, 2011 Alison Iris Mandelker-Burnett rated it really liked it
If you love to laugh and love NYC, then this is the best book! NYers have a terrible attention span, so these short humor essays are the best way to get through an afternoon.
May 14, 2016 Will rated it really liked it
Shelves: belles-lettres
So many gems, but my favorite is from "Notes on Trick," her parody of Sontag: "The mistreatment of the Trick is the revenge of the intelligent upon the beautiful."
Apr 03, 2015 Bradley rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Written between the mid-1970s through 1981, this collection of 69 short form humor essays feature observations from Lebowitz on all matters of discussion including religion, politics, food, sex, as well as her disdain for people and outdoors. Witty and subversive, Lebowitz dryly uses unconventional wisdom to solve her own problems by eliminating everything that gets in her way which is primarily you, the reader. Parents, landlords, agents, and even pontiffs should take notice as Fran has some pr ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Dec 08, 2015 Benjamin Kahn rated it did not like it
Wow! Did I not like this book. What a slog! There were a couple of mildly amusing parts, but if you don't find Lebowitz funny, there's nothing interesting here. It's not like it's amusing and educational.

I might have found her mildly amusing if I came across an article in a magazine, but page after page of the same snarky, world-weary prose is really hard to take. And it's aimed so much at people living in New York! Having never even been to New York, I just don't care. I'll cut her a little sl
Blair Andrews
Apr 19, 2011 Blair Andrews rated it liked it
This paperback is a collection of short essays originally published as two bestsellers in the 1970s (Metropolitan Life and Social Studies). Back then, her books defined knowing, urban cool. Guess what? They still do. If you were a mite too young to appreciate Leibowitz's take on that libertine decade the first time around (like me - I was just a toddler), now is an excellent time to make her acquaintance. The pieces still hold up as good writing and deliver plenty of sharp laughs. Some of the to ...more
Matthew Glaubman
Jun 25, 2013 Matthew Glaubman rated it liked it
As a person currently living in New York, I found many of the chapters to be interesting and still holding true to this day. I also found her writing to be humorous at times, but the book also has a lot of "filler". It is like reading someone's journal who can have profound and entertaining ideas, but then read someone just thinking out loud. Since each chapter discusses a different thought/idea, by halfway through the book I found it better to bounce around chapters. Her thought process reflect ...more
May 26, 2011 Meagan rated it it was ok
I thought I would like this a lot more. Am I the only one bothered by the fact that a few of the jokes are vaguely racist? Because none of the reviews mention it, so maybe it's just me. Anyway. You have to put up with a lot of cranky humbug, but it occasionally pays off, as in the proposed Writer's Strike piece and the Woody Allenesque "The Last Laugh." There are also quite a few choice witticisms, such as: "Being offended is the natural consequence of leaving one's home." Which is, basically, r ...more
Colin Cox
Mar 07, 2016 Colin Cox rated it liked it
On the whole, Lebowitz's genius is without question. She is insight, whimsical, and candid in ways that strong, resonate first-person essayists typically are. However, I have several caveats.

The essays in this collection are far too short. That is to say, I am left wanting more. This is Lebowitz's style, sure, and when it works it certainly works, but I want to see more development of her central ideas and themes. As I worked through this collection I felt rather confused regarding her purpose.
Mar 23, 2015 Leanna rated it liked it
Very clever, very New York. I found myself wishing I could follow Lebowitz's Twitter account because her one-liners are impeccable. However - it must be said - the collection suffers a bit in this format simply because her viewpoint is so well-defined as to become predictable and the humor subsequently loses its edge. Would be a good book to pick up and rifle through occasionally instead of reading cover to cover.
Dan Lalande
Jul 05, 2014 Dan Lalande rated it liked it
Observational essays - most an intro, a list of hit-and-miss one-liners, then a 'pun'-chline - from NY humorist Fran Lebowitz, largely from the height of her fame. It's best regarded as a time capsule, holding the catty Eastern ego of angst era Manhattan's queen of the quotable, though a few of her bromides - 'Sleep is death without the responsibility' - transcend their time.
Courtney Henley-Anderson
Apr 28, 2009 Courtney Henley-Anderson rated it it was amazing
I LOVE FRAN! She is just so funny! I had the great honor oF sharing a cigarette with her (back when I still smoked) at a party in Harlem and we talked about the amazing article she wrote for "Vanity Fair" magazine on the subject of race and more selectively white privilege in America. It was the most insightful and spot on article ever written on the subject.
Chris Kryaninko
Jun 03, 2015 Chris Kryaninko rated it it was amazing
Almost every essay made me laugh out loud. So many priceless lines ("Think before you speak. Read before you think."), and despite all of the essays being written well before my birth, they are seemingly timeless. Besides a few cultural references I lost (easily fixed by Google search), many of her observations matched so perfectly to my cynic's view.
Sep 22, 2015 Cheri rated it it was amazing
I reread this book after I saw Fran on The Tonight Show. She is and always will be the New Yorker's New Yorker. I lived vicariously in the 80's through Fran Lebowitz writings and enjoyed reading them again this time.
Debra Komar
May 26, 2015 Debra Komar rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of essays. Sharp, observant and irreverent. A few pieces have not stood the test of time but the majority are still as biting and smart today as the day she wrote them.
Sep 21, 2014 Caitlin rated it liked it
Lebowitz is sometimes scathingly funny, and--by her own admission in the forward--not all her essays age well. Her particular brand of whimsy does get kind of old, though. I think these pieces suffer from being put together, because you see her hitting the same jokes/points/angles repeatedly. Since these were originally published weeks or even years apart, the pieces probably originally stood on their own better. Lebowitz is a cool voice, though, and I certainly can't brush off her significance. ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Dave rated it it was ok
Funny, but if I wanted a collection of snarky complaining I'd just keep a journal.
Sep 06, 2012 Nikzad rated it it was ok
I found myself muttering "Is this it?" after quite a number of the pieces. They felt badly incomplete. Fran Lebowitz definitely does have a command on vocabulary, but I guess that's where she ends; nothing more. And what's worse, the style and vocabulary doesn't fit with the shallow prose.
The better pieces are those about her real life, the painful ones are when she tries to be creative and imagines a supposedly comic situation. If I come by her writing as a column, I might read it, but these e
Candace Rollins
Feb 29, 2016 Candace Rollins rated it liked it
I enjoyed Lebowitz's observations and banter, she can be wickedly amusing. This book is a combination of two previously released works and I must say I enjoyed Metropolitan Life more than Social Studies. It is imperative to have lived through the 70's and 80's, especially in NYC to appreciate her humor.

Unfamiliar words:

pg. 75 succubus: a female demon thought to have sex with sleeping men.
pg. 221 arriviste: an ambitious or ruthlessly self-seeking person.
pg. 226 parvenu: a person of wealth or cele
Nov 20, 2015 Gustavo rated it liked it
It was really entertaining at times, and other times i just wished the pages could pass quickly.

Fran is really witty, i like her humour, and i guess i would have liked it more , if i were acquainted with most of the persons or places she mentions in her book (there's a lot about New york); and i was lost frequently with some of the references. Despite all that it was a really fun book to read, there are parts which are pure genius, a lot of people have quoted those parts so i'm not going to do
Walk-Minh Allen
Jan 13, 2013 Walk-Minh Allen rated it did not like it
Read this book mainly due to name recognition but also some literary notoriety. I had never read any of Lebowitz's writing before and had few expectations beyond guessing that Lebowitz's style would be both sarcastic and humorous, based on her NYC credentials. Sarcastic, yes; humorous, no.

It seemed as if every piece in the book was a list of complaints or was leading up to a list of complaints. If there was supposed to be witty social and/or cultural insight contained within the writing, it alm
Jan 16, 2016 kelly rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays, 2016
Witty, sardonic complaints about things in NYC in the 70s, most of which go over my head or seem outdated (mood rings, pocket calculators, "communists," etc.) For me, Fran Lebowitz is okay in small doses, especially when I'm feeling irritable and need a sort of commiserating snark, but overall the elitism (and occasional mild racism) wears on me. I find myself wishing someone who knows her work better would just dog-ear all the pages of her best stuff so I don't have to flip through waiting to f ...more
Neha Agarwal
Aug 06, 2015 Neha Agarwal rated it liked it
Funny and original in parts. But I think I am missing the context of the 80s (around which the stories revolve) to truly enjoy this book.
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Frances Ann "Fran" Lebowitz is an American author and public speaker. Lebowitz is known for her sardonic social commentary on American life as filtered through her New York City sensibilities. Some reviewers have called her a modern-day Dorothy Parker.
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“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” 5932 likes
“There's no such thing as advice to the lovelorn. If they took advice, they wouldn't be lovelorn.” 23 likes
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