The big-talking, sharp-dressing New York wit sounds off on true love, the GOP, and how children aren’t that special, no matter what their parents tell them.
Talking > writing. Then, now, forever.
Fran Lebowitz is almost as famous for her pernicious case of writer’s block as she is for her top-shelf epigrams. Two books of essays, Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981), begat the perpetually unfinished novel Exterior Signs of Wealth (DOB TBA), the delay of which paved the way for decades of breezy speaking engagements. “I just talk. I’ve never thought about it,” Lebowitz says. “Talking for me is a spontaneous thing. Talking is effortless, which is why I talk a lot more than I write. Writing is effortful, so the conclusion you could come to is I’m just lazy.” Her gift of the gab inspired longtime friend Martin Scorsese to trail her for the 2010 documentary Public Speaking. Lebowitz altogether ignored the presence of the cameras, as she does so many things. She doesn’t have a computer. She has no interest in Facebook and Twitter. And don’t even get her started on the editing process. “I’ve never allowed anyone to edit me. Ever. Obviously there are people who think my writing needs editing, but I am not one of those people. Also, it would be hard for me to imagine a person who would be harder on my work than me…. I’m at least 10 times more judgmental of myself than other people.”
Monogamy is for suckers—and one exceptional automobile.
Who needs newfangled inventions like microwaves (“If you had told me I had to use a microwave for social media I might have believed you”) and word processors? For more than 30 years, Lebowitz has been the proud owner of a 1979 Checker Marathon. “Right now my car is in Connecticut in rehab. It’s been there for seven months. All I have to do is exchange a trunkload of gold and they’ll give it back. It’s an object of lust and love for me, this car—my only monogamous relationship. There is one photograph displayed in my house and it’s of my car,” she says. Lebowitz, who is a lesbian, supports the idea of gay marriage, but cannot understand why anyone would want to get hitched—hospital privileges and tax breaks be damned. One of the few upsides of being gay was to be free of what she deems “a kind of unbelievable tedium. I still have the same car that I bought in 1978 because I’m not tired of it. A human being? Please. My idea of a long relationship is a three-day weekend. I don’t have that kind of ability to not be bored.”
Some of her best friends are Republicans.
She may eschew technological progress, but Lebowitz is no fan of knee-jerk nostalgia. She believes in looking forward, even if that means making sartorial concessions. “We have an entire party—Republicans—who are nostalgic for things that were really terrible, I mean profoundly awful,” says Lebowitz. “‘Wasn’t it fantastic when there was no birth control for women?’ People have to understand the difference between clothes and values. I do believe men looked better when they wore suits because men look better in suits than shorts. But life for women was worse when men wore suits. If you have to choose, it’s better to have more freedom for women and have men who look terrible. Because it doesn’t seem like we can get both at once.” The GOP isn’t all bad, though. “I’m a very loyal person. [My oldest friend] is a venture capitalist. She’s a Republican. I would never have met her [now], but because we met in kindergarten we’re still friends. I had dinner with her last week and we argued about politics.”
Death to cultural democracy! Bring back the meritocracy!
Lebowitz has had it with the cult of overreaching. “It seems to me today that children are told, ‘You’re unbelievably special. You can do whatever you want in the world.’ I would have enjoyed being told that as a child, but I’m not so sure I enjoy the result,” she says. (That being said, she found Justin Bieber to be “very affable” when she shared a banquette with him at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party.) “Artists have to have talent. That’s all. That’s the word you never hear anymore and the reason you don’t hear it is because you cannot acquire it. No one who is five feet tall says, ‘I’m going to be a basketball player.’ But people who are the writing equivalent of five feet tall write books. Because no one says, ‘You know, you’re too short for that gesture.’”
Fran Lebowitz’s conversation with Jian Ghomeshi at Massey Hall, originally scheduled for Nov. 2, has been postponed due to weather. New date TBA. Call 416-872-4255 or check masseyhall.com for more information.