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The Fran Lebowitz Reader

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In the vein of Lebowitz's acclaimed Netflix limited series, Pretend It's a City — The Fran Lebowitz Reader brings together two of the famed author's bestsellers, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

In "elegant, finely honed prose" ( The Washington Post Book World ), Lebowitz limns the vicissitudes of contemporary urban life—its fads, trends, crazes, morals, and fashions. By turns ironic, facetious, deadpan, sarcastic, wry, wisecracking, and waggish, Fran Lebowitz is always wickedly entertaining.

333 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Fran Lebowitz

30 books1,542 followers
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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193 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 886 reviews
1,068 reviews17 followers
January 15, 2014
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 Lebowitz's two essay collections, Metroplitan Life and Social Studies. The essays are very short, ignoring depth for a quick jab at whatever Lebowitz has targeted. As a collection, the schtick becomes tedious, though one can see how these pieces, brief and good for a quick laugh would fit into a magazine. Worth picking up, but only for the occasional browse-through. Not meant to be read cover-to-cover.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
August 19, 2019
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, snark snark snark is the beginning of a lifelong romance. Snark snark snark snark is big enough snark snark snark snark. And so overall this book was snark snark. Her curmudgeonly snark snark snark on life made me snark snark snark. Snark snark, snark, snark snark, snark snark snark her disinterest in respecting anyone including herself was snark snark snark. Snark snark snark snark a bit hard to take snark snark snark - as it can be snark snark snark sarcastic assholes snark snark snark. So small doses of Snark Snark snark snark snark snark. This book was often quite snark, snark snark "snark" snark snark around race and class. Snark snark snark snark snark snark hypocritical society snark snark the puncturing of all pretensions snark snark snark snark snark, overall it was snark snark, snark to read. *
People (a group that in my opinion has always attracted an undue amount of attention) have often been likened to snowflakes. This analogy is meant to suggest that each is unique - no two alike. This is quite patently not the case. People, even at the current rate of inflation - in fact, people especially at the current rate of inflation - are quite simply a dime a dozen.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
964 reviews357 followers
August 1, 2021
«Se sentite l'urgenza cocente di scrivere o dipingere, limitatevi semplicemente a mangiare qualcosa di dolce: vedrete che la sensazione svanirà. La storia della vostra vita non è materiale per un buon libro. Non ci provate nemmeno.»

Due stelle più cinque fa sette, diviso due fa tre e mezza ma sono troppe, però aggiungiamo Pretend It’s a City (titolo italiano Fran Lebowitz: una vita a New York), la docuserie in sette puntate che le ha dedicato (e alla quale ha, sghignazzantemente, partecipato) Martin Scorsese, e tre stelle gliele diamo d'ufficio.
Non è un gran bel leggere (troppo difficile, immagino, rendere l'umorismo di Fran Lebowitz in traduzione (le note del traduttore confermano), e forse non è nemmeno vero (come scritto in prefazione) che sia la migliore scrittrice (non scrivente, ormai, fanno giusto quarant'anni che non pubblica) in circolazione, ma ascoltare parlare Fran a ruota libera con Scorsese è un'esperienza fantastica (io l'ascolterei ogni giorno, vorrei una Fran Lebowitz tutte le mattine e tutte le sere a raccontarmi aneddoti sul mondo) e leggere le due interviste che compongono la seconda parte del libro (la prima del 1993 per Paris Review, la seconda del 2021 concessa telefonicamente a Giulio D'Antona) restituisce il buonumore e fa girare felici l'ultima pagina.

Insomma, non lo consiglio, andate su Netflix, piuttosto. Cosa dico "andate", correte.

Profile Image for Olaf Gütte.
185 reviews74 followers
March 16, 2023
Sicher kann man über einige Passagen schmuneln, aber im Großen und Ganzen
ist es leider nicht mein Humor.
Profile Image for Kira.
228 reviews16 followers
February 22, 2012
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 who thrive there. There’s a fine line between petty inconvenience and actual hardship; a good humorist just knows how to exploit it.

Profile Image for Lena.
Author 1 book349 followers
January 30, 2011
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 not she deserves the title of "the modern-day Dorothy Parker" may be up for debate, but as soon as I heard her discussing her car, a vintage Checker cab, as being such an incredibly subtle shade of pearl gray that "straight men think it's white," I decided I had track down her book.

Her written works did not disappoint. Fran's essays follow a very distinct style - short, sharp, smart, and very, very dry. Not all of them were hits, and I did find they were best enjoyed in small doses rather than a long sitting. But there were enough laugh out loud moments to make me want to continually read lines to my husband.

They also aged surprisingly well - the fact that they were written over thirty years ago was only obvious in passing reference to things like the advent of digital watches. But Fran seemed to have a pulse on those things that never change, as is evidenced in her comments on LA: "A great many people in Los Angeles are on special diets that restrict their intake of synthetic foods. The reason for this appears to be a widely held belief that organically grown fruits and vegetables make the cocaine work faster."
Profile Image for Chey.
62 reviews5 followers
June 26, 2021
I really enjoy Fran in Public Speaking and her other talks, but her writing was, as one reviewer put it, "all wit, no world view." After reading this, I'm surprised that she has had writing block for the past forty years since her writing is essentially a grocery list of opinions dressed up in pretentious flair.
Profile Image for Marika_reads.
287 reviews332 followers
September 3, 2021
„Nie jestem typem człowieka, który chce wrócić do przyrody; jestem typem człowieka, który chce wrócić do hotelu”.

Jest wiele kobiet, którymi chciałabym być w „jak dorosnę” :). Tzn. chciałabym być takie jak one. Gloria Steinem czy Jane Fonda są wysoko na podium. Ale wśród nich jest też Fran Lebowitz. Chciałabym być tak sarkastyczna jak ona, być tak błyskotliwa, mieć tak czarny humor, mieć tak cięte riposty, mieć taki dystans i generalnie mieć wywalone na wszystko tak jak ona. Ale mam juz przy przynajmniej jedną cechę Fran - jestem przekonana, że zawsze rację (nawet jak jej niby nie mam, to ją mam). Ach i jest coś jeszcze - krok po kroku dążę (świadomie lub nie) do ikony lenistwa, którą Lebowitz jest nazywana.
I wybaczcie mi proszę, ale będę w opinii o „Nie w humorze” bezkrytyczna, choć widzę w tych esejach sporo fragmentów, które dziś ju�� by nie uszły na sucho - ale to teksty z lat 70,80 i 90-tych i przez pryzmat tego powinniśmy je czytać. Jeśli nie masz na to ochoty, to nie czytaj. Poprawności politycznej tutaj nie znajdziecie, szczególnie tej na nasze czasy, ale to świetna komentatorka życia społecznego mówiąca bez obciachu to czego nie wypada i choć wielu na głos będzie krytykować, to Ci sami po cichu będą się uśmiechać czytając.
I dla mnie to taki idealny comfort read na zmęczenie, rozdrażnienie i smutek. I polecam, choć wiem, że wielu będzie się krzywić, oburzać i rzucać tą książka w kąt.

„Dla jednych będą to kolumny, dla innych - logika. Mnie w kulturze greckiej najbardziej imponuje zabijanie posłańca złej nowiny”.

„I tak oto mozolną drogą wnikliwej analizy i eliminacji dochodzimy do wniosku: życie to coś, co robimy, kiedy nie możemy zasnąć. Tak zwana cywilizacja jest zatem w istocie wielką hałdą pozostałości po zatrważające liczbie nieprzespanych nocy”.
Profile Image for Nikki.
494 reviews124 followers
January 10, 2016
“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 wine.”

This is typical Fran Lebowitz. She is often hilarious, always sarcastic, and usually playful.

She is a cross between Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and that friend of yours who never shuts the fuck up. She is arrogant, smart, and sometimes shallow. She hates animals. Even cute ones. She tolerates children. She smokes a lot and lives in NYC.
Profile Image for Giselle.
21 reviews2 followers
February 6, 2021
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 general...today. In other news, the documentary Scorsese did about her for HBO, Public Speaking, is excellent.
Profile Image for Dave.
701 reviews3 followers
December 10, 2014
Funny, but if I wanted a collection of snarky complaining I'd just keep a journal.
Profile Image for od1_40reads.
205 reviews40 followers
October 25, 2022
Oh Fran, Fran, Fran…

‘The Fran Lebowitz Reader’ - Drinking alcohol (lots of alcohol) whilst reading is strongly encouraged, smoking optional. (Of course Fran would say smoking obligatory.)

I mean… I think you have to know what you’re getting into here. Fran Lebowitz’s humour is entirely offensive… to everyone. No one gets out of jail for free here.

But her writing isn’t just offensive, it’s absolutely bonkers in places. And, I’m sorry to those of you clutching at your pearls, fucking funny too!

She’s an amazing writer, incredulously smart, and definitely not to be taken too seriously. Some might say a national treasure/pain in the arse.

At the end of the day, I think we have a Marmite situation… you either love her or hate her! I absolutely fall into the former camp.
Profile Image for Kisha.
22 reviews
March 11, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Jacob Overmark.
206 reviews9 followers
October 5, 2022
"To my friend Jacob", says the first page ...

Not that we are particularly close, but I owed myself a physical encounter with Fran, after all I have known her for some years, our relationship being of the distance-kind though.

And I´m glad I did. Fran is much more fun listening to live than reading.

Not that the book is not well written and lets the personality shine through, not that some parts are not very, very funny it´s just ...

If the definition of grumpy old men had a grandmother, it would be Fran and it is just a little tiresome getting through page after page of grumpiness and I advise it be taken in small doses.

Profile Image for Antonio Fanelli.
919 reviews139 followers
July 20, 2021
Amo questa donna!
L'ho conosciuta nei documentari di Scorsese e il suo umorismo così rinfrescante e spietato mi ha conquistato; certo, i suoi articoli sono specchio degli anni in cui sono stati scritti, ma ancora adesso mordono quanto basta.
Profile Image for Asia.
76 reviews29 followers
October 30, 2021
Czytam tę książkę od czasu polskiej premiery, zjechała ze mną kawałek Europy przez co wygląda jak psu z gardła wyjęta. Zajęło mi to tak dużo czasu bo Fran w tej wersji totalnie do mnie nie przemawia, humor nieco przeterminowany, nie bawi, momentami wręcz żenuje, jedno wielkie meh.
Profile Image for Meagan.
Author 5 books94 followers
May 27, 2011
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, rule #1 of living in New York City.
Profile Image for Lisa Leone-campbell.
495 reviews45 followers
September 7, 2021
I have always been a fan of Fran Lebowitz although I had never read any of her essays or books. I would enjoy seeing her on talk shows and was always fascinated at her witty humor. Whether I agreed or disagreed with her politics or ethics, I always found her quick, clever responses amusing. So when she landed on Netflix in a documentary about herself called Pretend It’s a City, which also featured Martin Scorsese it was a must watch for me. And it did not disappoint.

So it was then I decided to pick up her books of essays. This, unfortunately was easier said than done. You see Ms. Lebowitz has not written a book since the 1980’s, although she does seem to still write essays for magazines. She wrote two books of essays, I found out, Social Studies and Metropolitan Life. As I searched to buy one or the other I was flabbergasted to find that the cost of said books were astronomical! One of the books was selling for over $100 and I found someone selling the set for $2,500! And they were not even signed!

And that is how I discovered The Fran Lewbowitz Reader. This paperback sells for about $14 and is a compilation of some of the essays from both of the books she wrote. And although the book did not disappoint, I only wish I could have been able to read more of the essays from both of the original books.

Now remember, these books were written in the late 70’s, early 80’s which make the essays even funnier! One essay, Disco Hints, (I told you they were old) gives a glimpse of the proper way to dance at a disco, and how and who should take clothes off when getting hot dancing!

In the essay Color: Drawing the Line she gives her interpretation of what the primary and secondary colors really mean.

In Parental Guidance she gives suggestions to parents on raising their children, although she has none. One suggestion: “Do not on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won’t feel like watching.”

There is a wonderful section titled The Frances Ann Lebowitz Collection in which she posts actual pictures of actual items in her apartment describing such items as if she were auctioning them off. These pictures are hilarious! She also gives Lebowitz sage advice on how to find an apartment in New York.

Although her sense of humor may not be for everybody, I truly enjoyed her satire, references and reflections from days gone by. Now if we could just convince her to write just one more book!

Profile Image for Nickolette.
144 reviews122 followers
April 13, 2017
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-called writer’s block-ade. These essays have been written back in the late 70s – early 80s and we can think of them as the mistakes of youth. That period of a person’s life that she is allowed to believe in her artistic ability. The essays all have the same structure – an ok intro and then pointless lists, some “funny advice” or what have you that manages to bore the reader by the end of the first page of a three-page work.
Profile Image for david.
447 reviews
September 7, 2021
As a father of three girls and now single for most of my life, I know what I like about women.

For a man whose growth abated at 5’5” and is currently 5’3 ½”, but who is counting?) and weighs between 115-120 pounds (the size of an average American female), I identify in certain respects with this gender that fits (ladies).

And really, what is sexier than a short, androgynously adorned woman (Franny), cropped hair from a barbershop, who has worked the streets of NYC her entire life, who is whip-smart, witty, and downright funny (page after page) and knows exactly where she fits in the human spectrum.

A most enjoyable writer and someone I would like to share a dinner with.

(Most of this book is outdated yet it still retains its’ value. For those above fifty, it is romantically reminiscent and for the youngsters, many arcane references that you may have to google.)
Profile Image for Laura.
101 reviews30 followers
May 9, 2023
Snappy and entertaining but lacks substance. Everything is said simply for the hell of it. It's fun for a few essays, but reading the whole collection back-to-back makes you feel like you're listening to your bitter aunt who won't. stop. blowing cigarette smoke in your face while she recites her pet peeves (chiefly children who don't smoke cigarettes).

This material is best consumed in short doses over a moderate period of time, but Fran's a damn clever author.
Profile Image for Francesca.
Author 6 books219 followers
July 25, 2022
Amo i miei amici.
Soprattutto quando mi regalano libri che mi si confanno, dimostrandomi che, non a caso, sono miei amici, anzi provandomi, oltre ogni ragionevole dubbio, che proprio il destino ci ha scelti per essere tali.
Grazie, amici, per esserci.
Grazie per i libri che mi regalate.
Grazie, Fran Lebowitz, per "non scrivere".
Anche se preferirei che "non scrivessi" un po' di più. E amerei grandemente il poter "non leggere" il tuo "non scrivere" un po' di più! XD
Profile Image for Alicja.
104 reviews
August 28, 2021
Możliwe, że było to śmieszne w latach 70., ale i to niekoniecznie.
Profile Image for Kristīne.
578 reviews1 follower
July 16, 2022
Fran Lebowitz ir sieviete - zīmols. Viņa ir tik īpaša, manierīga, līdz kaulam patiesa savā samākslotībā, viņai var piedot visu ironisko nīdienu uz grāmatā aprakstītajām lietām un cilvēkiem.

Es tomēr vienu zvaigzni noņēmu, jo teksti tomēr nav mūžīgi, ir novecojušas detaļas, kuras mani diezgan garlaikoja. Bet kas bija labi, bija izcili.
Profile Image for WhatIReallyRead.
725 reviews507 followers
March 13, 2020
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 surprised at first. For this didn't seem to be the kind of book one would become famous for. This seemed like the kind of book one would get away with writing because one was famous already. It's humorous and insubstantial, with a ton of lists and anecdotes.

The humor is that snobby, snarky, grumpy type that you either love or despise. The sentences are long and wordy. At first, I thought: "Well, it's funny, but not that funny" and almost regretted starting it.

If your sexual fantasies were truly of interest to others they would no longer be fantasies.

[Prenatal signs that your child is a writer] C. When your obstetrician applies the stethoscope to your abdomen he hears excuses.

But a few chapters in Fran started growing on me. I started snorting and giggling and enjoying every minute of her difficult sour-humored New Yorker self.

It was a nice read.
Profile Image for Giusy.
78 reviews10 followers
September 27, 2021
Ho scoperto Fran Lebowitz con "Pretend it's a city" di Martin Scorsese ed è stato subito amore.
Fran Lebowitz non è una scrittrice, ma l'opposto: passa più tempo a non scrivere e a cercare metodi per rifuggire la scrittura che a fare qualsiasi altra cosa (oltre a lamentarsi). E infatti non scrive qualcosa da 40 anni e tutti i suoi lavori sono racchiusi qui.
Devo dire che non ne sono rimasta delusa e francamente fatico anche a spiegare il perché. Il personaggio di Fran Lebowitz (che poi, ma lo è, un personaggio? Dove inizia e dove finisce la vera Fran?) è ben costruito, è irriverente, fastidioso, provocatorio. Ma poi questa donna ha un senso dell'umorismo pazzesco, che riesce a rapirmi senza neanche parlare della contemporaneità e di cose che conosco, perché a lei interessa solo lamentarsi delle cose che la infastiscono di più al mondo: la scrittura (o meglio, lavorare) e le agenzie immobiliari.
Questo non-libro, che alla fine è pura e genuina opinione, mi ha fatto così ridere che consiglio a tutti di leggerne un capitolo al giorno.
Non so se voglio che Fran Lebowitz sia la mia migliore amica o piuttosto se io voglia essere lei.
Profile Image for Benjamin Kahn.
1,460 reviews13 followers
December 8, 2015
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 slack and admit that the material might have dated, but the fact that she was in her 20s when she wrote a lot of the essays and still adopts the "I've seen it all" tone I find a little offensive.

A great disappointment. I would have abandoned it about 60 pages in but I was reading it for a book club and couldn't convince the other members to give it up. They came to regret that decision as neither of them liked it either.
Profile Image for Mike.
685 reviews2 followers
February 20, 2021
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 if she never writes another book, though. Keep up the public speaking engagements, and I'll be there!
Profile Image for Aleksandra Szranko.
712 reviews56 followers
September 21, 2021
Bardzo byłam nie w humorze, czytając te ani blyskotliwe, ani śmieszne felietony sprzed 30 lat (sic!).
Tak bardzo, że momentami miałam ochotę rzucać tą książką z 4 piętra (ale wiem, że panna porządnicka we mnie zaraz by pobiegła to posprzątać, więc bez sensu).

A przeczytałam do końca, bo utopiłam własny hajs, skuszona obietnicą ciętego języka ikony NYC. Meh!
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