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The Fran Lebowitz Reader

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  762 ratings  ·  76 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 "elega
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 8th 1994 by Vintage
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Jan 29, 2011 Lena rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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.
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
Courtney Henley-Anderson
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.
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
Funny, but if I wanted a collection of snarky complaining I'd just keep a journal.
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
Dan Lalande
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.
Walk-Minh Allen
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
Blair Andrews
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
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
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
I did like this book, but the essays and pieces do get repetitious. I put the book down halfway through to go have and tend a baby for a couple weeks and after returning to the book I found it funnier. Maybe I just needed a break, or maybe my sleep deprivation made it more enjoyable, or maybe the book coincidently got funnier at the point I put it down.
In a way, I am reminded of the very little Bill Bryson I've read; both Mr. Bryson and Ms. Lebowitz complain a lot. It's a good thing they can mak
Jennifer Camacho
I have tried to read this book twice, and both times I have been disappointed. I thought I would like the book as it was highly recommended, and I'm a huge fan of David Sedaris, which I assumed was a similar style to this book.
But no, I just can't get past the first several chapters, and I couldn't understand why I dislike this book so much - and then it hit me. It's pretentious - I find her writing to be "I'm Jewish, Lesbian, Liberal, from New York City, so of course of I'm interesting". Nope -
Fran Lebowitz has been called the modern day Dorothy Parker. She is all that, as well as a die-hard New York City-er -- sarcastic, smart, poignant, but mostly she's Hilarious. I recently watched Martin Scorcese's documentary about her on HBO ("Public Speaking") three times, and it compelled me to go back to her essays of the early 70's and re-read her. This compilation of "Metropolitan Life" and "Social Studies" is just as relevant today as it was over 30 yrs ago. She's my hero. Man, if only I h ...more
Female Oscar Wilde. Witty, urbane, bitter, sarcastic and hilarious in her observations; especially her self-observations. A lot of it is dated, but so what? She's someone I would love to know. And her style of writing is exactly what I crave in a writer: classic, acidic, articulate beyond belief. Fabulous little book. I bookmarked a ton of "bon mots" and quotable passages. Sublime in her withering take on the world...however...much of this book is VERY dated and extremely "un-PC" does ta ...more
Kim Ibara
Aug 18, 2011 Kim Ibara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who love razor-sharp witted commentary on life.
If you have never read Fran Lebowitz, you are in for a treat! Irreverent, bawdy, insightful, witty, outlandish...and not for the faint of heart! This collection includes a little of everything, from hatred of children who speak French to vocational guides for heiresses to manuals for landlords to a guide about how the rich can meet the poor. Not for the incurably PC, Lebowitz can make liberals gasp and conservatives plug their ears. Be prepared to be laughing outloud!
Very dry, very droll, just like my favorites, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker. And oh so quotable, but I feel as if I need to take up drinking and smoking to quote effectively. Lots of fun -- I graded down a bit because a few of these pieces are feeling their age, even smelling a bit musty. I'd be ecstatic if Lebowitz came out with a new collection. I'll have to cheer myself by watching that documentary about her -- she talks even better than she writes.
One of my top three favorite writers. Acerbic, brilliant and unapologetic, Fran Lebowitz is the poster girl for New York In the 70's. She's a character, an intellectual and an eccentric and those are her most urbane qualities. Her humor is second to none and though these two books (collectively published in this edition) were written years ago, they hold up as a paen to a certain time in culture, New York and the contemporary literary world.
Nancy Martira
Things Fran Lebowitz hates: House Plants. Press Agents. EST. Erica Jong. CB Radio. Polyester. Los Angeles. Social Climbers. Digital watches. Abbreviations denoting micro-neighborhoods.

Things Fran Lebowitz likes: Cigarettes. Discotheques. Sleep. Ordering in.

As a lady curmudgeon myself, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Fran Lebowitz although today her writing reads more like the ship's manifest from the Mayflower than satire.
I bought this book at a secondhand shop so I would have something to occupy myself while dining alone in Ann Arbor. Definitely served its purpose, but also made me a bit of a spectacle as I laughed out loud. I don't LIKE this book, but I do find it funny, if that makes any sense, and the snark and evil-ness will make it an oft-loaned title- there are so many people who will love this book.
Matthew Gallaway
As Lebowitz says in the new introduction to this compilation of essays from the 1970s, this book provides a glimpse into a different (and gayer) era in New York City. Insightful and funny, sometimes dated, but never wistful or apologetic. I read this while preparing to interview Lebowitz for the Awl, which you can read here.
I have deep respect for this fixture of the intellectual scene in New York in the 1980s, but the humor did not hold up for me three decades later. I found that the Scorcese film captured her wit in an accessible manner and would certainly recommend it for those interested in Lebowitz. Her commentary on issues of gender and race in the documentary are particularly wise.
I read Metropolitan Life on its own a few years ago and loved it, and was happy to find it coupled here with Social Studies.

Fran is the best. Just evil, sharp, and funny as hell.

The downside of reading this again, especially if I'm somewhere in public, is the constant reminder that there are so few people like her out there.
While uneven in places I loved reading the dry, scalding wit of Fran Lebowitz. She is at her best at her most brief:

"Polite conversation is rarely either."

"Generally speaking, it is inhumane to detain a fleeing insight."

"If your sexual fantasies were truly of interest to others, they would no longer be fantasies."
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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.
More about Fran Lebowitz...
Metropolitan Life Social Studies Metropolitan Life/Social Studies Tales From A Broad: An Unreliable Memoir Mr. Chas & Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas

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“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” 5255 likes
“There's no such thing as advice to the lovelorn. If they took advice, they wouldn't be lovelorn.” 18 likes
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