Fran Lebowitz said one of the best things anybody has ever said, “Having had a miserable adolescence does not justify writing a novel.”
Unfortunately, I’ve often though of that line over the years–there are a lot of miserable adolescents in modern literature.
So I was looking forward to reading this collection of writing mostly from the New Yorker. The book includes two previous collections: Metropolitan Life and Social Sciences. This the first title I’ve selected from David Bowie’s list of 100 Essential Books.
I can see why Bowie liked it. Ms. Lebowitz is funny. She does bring a very New York take on the world of the 1970’s and 1980’s, the period when she wrote most of these pieces.
But a little goes a very long way, it turns out.
It may be better to read Fran Lebowitz a little at a time, probably best to read her in the New Yorker in the 1970’s and 1980’s once or twice a month.
She can be very fun. There’s a line it the book somewhere, I cannot find it this morning, about a talking on the phone to an agent in Southern California who is “audibly tan.” That’s pretty good. And these bits from an article debating the pro’s and con’s of having children: pro. Children make the most desirable opponents in Scrabble as they are both easy to beat and fun to cheat. And con. Children respond inadequately to sardonic humor and veiled threats.
That’s fun, in small doses, but I think you can already see what I mean. Here’s a longer passage form a piece titled Manners that I liked on first reading:
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.
Funny enough, I guess, maybe even a small grain of truth there, too, but just a small one. And a very cynical one.
Which took a toll after 80 pages or so, so I’m returning the book to the library today.
But, should I come across a column by Fran Lebowitz sometime, I’ll still read it.