Conversation provided at Fran Lebowitz‘s skill level would have been celebrated in another era. Just look at vintage video clips that show figures like James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, and William F. Buckley on talk shows from the 1960s. Lebowitz has said how she was thrilled and inspired as a young person by one of Baldwin’s appearances on the David Susskind Show. Today’s talk shows are no comparison, with guests that are pre-interviewed and come out to plug their product for five minutes. But, when Lobowitz appears on a talk show, there is actual conversation. She was on Bill Maher‘s Real Time earlier this month and really stirred things up when, after addressing her reaction to the Mueller Report and her dismay over how Attorney General William Barr handled the aftermath, she said:
I was shocked. It’s shocking. It’s shocking. It’s a criminal thing that Barr did.
Lebowitz then dared to say that Trump should suffer the same fate as Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who, according to the CIA, was tortured and murdered on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Whenever I think about this and what he [Trump] really deserves, I think we should turn him over to the Saudis. You know, his buddies. The same Saudis who got rid of that reporter. You know, Maybe they could do the same for him.
Of course, she got in trouble for that one and later, sort of half-apologized:
I didn’t realize that I had said it. I had 12 cups of coffee. I regret saying it. I did not mean that and I regret saying it. I regret that everyone misinterpreted it.
Lebowitz is famously paralyzed with what she calls “writer’s blockade” but she has few peers as a public pontificator. Her particular gift for gab has made it possible for her to afford to continue to live in New York City and to hang out with her famous friends.
Cranky, sardonic, witty and dry; her essays make me think and they make me laugh. She was named one of the most stylish women in Vanity Fair‘s International Best Dressed List, and she is known for wearing bespoke suits from Savile Row’s Anderson And Sheppard.
Leibowitz disapproves of pretty much everything except sleep, cigarettes, and fine furniture. Her essays about the difficulty of finding an acceptable apartment or the art of freeloading are classics of social observation. I still re-read her first books Social Studies and Metropolitan Life, both published more than 35 years ago. One of my mottoes comes from her:
Polite conversation is rarely either.
In Vanity Fair a few years ago, Lebowitz wrote:
Donald Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person. You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump.
Earlier this spring she told New York magazine’s The Cut:
You’re forced to know about politics now. During the Vietnam War, I was very involved in politics and interested in politics. I’d march and that kind of stuff. Then there was an endless period where I barely paid attention to it. I’m an excellent voter, but now, it isn’t a question of interest. It’s an obsession. Not just with me. The country is being destroyed. There is a major disaster occurring. So if this is not capturing your attention, what would?