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The Fran Lebowitz Reader

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,629 ratings  ·  285 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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Average rating 3.77  · 
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mark monday
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: he-said-she-said
Democracy is an interesting, even laudable, notion and there is no question but that when compared to Communism, which is too dull, or Fascism, which is too exciting, it emerges as the most palatable form of government. This is not to say that it is without its drawbacks - chief among them being its regrettable tendency to encourage people in the belief that all men are created equal.
I respond well to Fran Lebowitz because snark snark snark snark snark. Snark snark snark snark snark snark, s
Jan 15, 2014 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
Jan 08, 2011 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
Feb 15, 2012 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
Nov 24, 2010 rated it liked it
“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 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.
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Perhaps the least cheering statement ever made on the subject of art is that life imitates it. [...] more often than not, life imitates craft, for who among us can say that our experience does not more closely resemble a macramé plant holder than it does a painting by Seurat.

I first found out about Fran Lebowitz from her appearances on the Tonight Show. She was charming and entertaining in a strange way, so I wanted to find out why she was famous. Hence, I picked up this book.

I was
May 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Funny, but if I wanted a collection of snarky complaining I'd just keep a journal. ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Apr 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Raymon Gottfredson
Dec 02, 2008 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. ...more
Forest Collins
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just reread this, some 25 years after first having read it the first time. Fran Lebowitz is a humorist who uses her life as a writer in New York as a means of making people laugh as well as making social commentary. I enjoy her wit as she dryly discusses people on the phone who are 'audibly tan', reminds the reader that "your life story would not make a good book. Don't even try" or bemoans the fact that she is "Always a godmother, never a god."

The Fran Lebowitz Reader is a compilation of essa
Josh Friedlander
A collection of magazine humour pieces mostly from the 70s, on writer's block (Lebowitz is somewhat infamous for it, with a dry streak going back to 1994), socialites, art types, health food, decor trends, yuppies, and the various failings of telephone operators, taxi drivers, and waiters. Mostly still funny, although a collection of this length is probably too much of a good thing. She seems like a fun character: here is a 2019 interview, and here is the trailer for Martin Scorsese's documentar ...more
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Lebowitz is one of the funniest people on the planet - her combination of wry self-aware acerbity and deadpan delivery never fails to make me laught. I've been lucky to see her live a couple times. Famously, she hasn't actually written anything in 40 years, and it was interesting to go back to this collection of her early (and only!) writings. They haven't aged very well. The first book, Metropolitan Life, is really dated - Social Studies is much better and more laugh out loud funny. It's fine i ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
I love Fran Lebowitz the public figure, the canny social satirist, and it looks like I hate Fran Lebowitz the writer.
“Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass. Your life story would not make a good book. Do not even try.”
She says and she’s been living by this credo for decades. Her so-cal
Jan 05, 2011 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
Austin Gustin-Helms
Listening to Fran Lebowitz read her essays makes me feel like I’m living back in NYC again. Her dry humor and outlook on life embodies many of the people and experiences I encountered there. Loved listening to this book, and who wouldn’t with gems such as these:

“All God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, Barry presentable.”

“If you are of the opinion that the contemplation of suicide is sufficient evidence of a poetic nature, do not forget that actions speak loude
Alison Iris Mandelker-Burnett
May 20, 2011 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.
L.K. Simonds
The rating is qualified in that this collection may appeal to fans of Larry David’s work, such as Seinfeld. This reader includes the essays formerly published in Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, in which Ms. Lebowitz expresses her views of life, people, herself, and her beloved New York. She’s jaded, acerbic, and just about any other adjective you can think of that says there isn’t much meaning to existence beyond a pack of good cigarettes. Lebowitz is also pretty darned funny, and like Sei ...more
Gerry Sacco
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I went into this being very familiar with Lebowitz, and her snark. And honestly enjoying it as well. But, this book was really all over the place, and at times it was a bit confusing and also a bit much.

That being said, there were some very enjoyable parts, and spending as much time in New York as I have, as long as I have, made it even more enjoyable than for a lot of other people I’m sure.

It was decent, but could have been a bit better if she reigned her snark in slightly. Been slightly more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Closer to 2.5. Often humorous but sometimes Lebowitz and her essays are too clever by half. A lot of it is that a lot of what was once considered to be very funny in 1978 (barbs about trans persons; an entire essay mocking child sexual abuse through the lens of a gay Sherlock Holmes and Watson) is justifiably reprehensible to modern tastes, including my own.
Tejashree Murugan
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
“As one whose taste in mental states has always run largely toward the coma, I have very little patience with the current craze for self-awareness. I am already far too well acquainted with how I feel and frankly, given the choice, I would not. Anyone who is troubled by the inability to feel his or her own feelings is more than welcome to feel mine.”
Alice Florence
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Social Studies much more than Metropolitan Life.
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
A more interesting character than writer, Lebowitz bogs readers down with too many lists.
Mildly amusing, although it feels quite dated.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Fran Lebowitz on plants making their own food:

"Thus, since I have yet to detect the aroma of Fettuccine Alfredo emanating from a Boston fern, I do not consider And Generally Makes Its Own Food to be a trait of any consequence whatsoever. When you run across one that Generally Makes Its Own Money, give me a call."

Witty, even funny, at times, but pretty obnoxious at others. Her sentences have the tendency to hurt the eyes and even as I looked away a few times I still forced myself back with a hea
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
i think fran is much better in person.
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
I saw the netflix doc about her. Then read his very thin oeuvre ( dnf) and saw the hbo doc from 2010

His writing is outdated...and it's good she got a writer blockade, because his writing comments from 1978 are not especially transcending in 2021

She runs on the same joke and comments since the '70 , very well-delivered when she speak but not when she write

But she is lucid about her talent. I think she understood the character of «  Fran lebowitz" was more interesting ( and paying) than the real w
May 01, 2021 rated it liked it
These are all highly entertaining, witty, wry, and often sarcastic writings, although many are not completely agreeable
Bradley Morgan
Apr 03, 2015 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
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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

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