Editor’s note: This performance has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on November 29 due to inclement weather. Tickets already purchased will then be honoured.
Fran Lebowitz has done billions of interviews, by her count. So when she sat down to talk to What’s Up!, our first question was, “What question are you sick of people asking you?”
“That’s now my favorite question. I wish other people would ask me that,” she replied in her fast New York cadence. Lebowitz will stop by the Walton Arts Center on February 4 for “A Conversation with Fran Lebowitz,” an onstage interview with KUAF 91.3FM’s Kyle Kellams followed by a Q&A with the audience.
“I’m tired of people asking me why I have such a hard time writing. This is my #1 question that I’m tired of answering. Obviously, if I knew that, I would write more,” Lebowitz continued. Fair enough. She is equally known these days for not writing but rather for sharing her observations and criticisms. In her Emmy-nominated Netflix series, “Pretend It’s a City,” there’s a clip of an audience member asking when her next book is coming out, and without missing a beat, she jokes, “give me your number , and I’ll call you.
Despite the question that haunts her interviews with David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, she’s made a career out of sharing her mind and opinions about all her likes and dislikes, many of which involve New York City.
“I’ve never cared what people think of what I think. I’m not saying I don’t care what people think of me, because I’m human. But if people aren’t d okay with me, so what? I never understood why [my opinions] angry people. I have no power, I’m not the mayor of New York, I don’t make laws. These are just opinions!” she said in the first episode of “Pretend It’s a City”.
Now that she’s better known as a cultural critic who’s been on the talk show circuit for decades, does she mind being called a cultural critic? “I don’t mind,” she said. “I’ve always been called that, so it’s not new, but I’m probably new to some people. … It’s one of the things that I am.
She began her career in New York working for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and later wrote for Mademoiselle, The New York Times and Newsweek. She is the author of two bestselling books, “Social Studies” and “Metropolitan Life”, which have been combined to form her latest release, “The Fran Lebowitz Reader”. She played a judge in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and the TV show “Law & Order.” She has been part of several documentaries, including “Public Speaking”, produced by Martin Scorsese, who also produces his Netflix show. She’s a walking, smoky, acerbic tale of the city, someone who seems to know everyone, and she always has a story to tell, just not in just any online format.
She avoids technology, especially social media platforms. In “Pretend It’s a City,” she said people would talk to her about things like Instagram and Facebook like she didn’t know what that was. Then she said, “I don’t have those things no because I don’t know what they are. I don’t have these things because I know what they are.
Still, she remains an informed commentator on current affairs, still reading The New York Times and saying she’s glad northwest Arkansas has a newspaper.
“I’m always happy that a city still has a newspaper! Thousands of newspapers have gone out of business; most cities don’t even have them anymore,” she says. “I only get the New York Times on Sundays. Now, of course, I get the real paper paper, what you call the printed edition. Most people I know, even people my age, read it online.
About the Sunday paper, she said, “I only get the Sunday paper because I always tell people, ‘How do you read this every day?’ It takes me the whole weekend to read the Sunday paper, and I read pretty fast. A friend of mine gets the three New York newspapers every day, and I said, “I don’t understand how you do this. And she said, ‘That’s because you read it.’ I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And she said, ‘No one else reads it; They come back! ‘”
In “Pretend It’s a City”, she and Scorsese lamented the loss of papers in New York. She commented that the town was once covered in newspapers, and now what was once a bustling newsstand has been replaced by a bicycle rental kiosk.
“I think it’s a terrible thing, the lack of newspapers, not because I’m old and outdated, which I am, but also because local papers in small towns or small towns – that’s the only way to make local politicians count. We can certainly see that politicians on all sides – local politicians, national politicians – all get away with murder. And that [the loss of local newspapers] is the reason,” Lebowitz said.
In addition to her Sunday Times, Lebowitz is also known as an avid book reader. She joked on an episode of her show that she couldn’t afford an apartment big enough to house all her books. Although she regularly shares what she doesn’t like, she refuses to throw cold water on any author’s efforts, though she admits she tends to only remember the ones she does. she loves the most.
“In my opinion, there is an over-praise of books, not that there should be people who denigrate books. I’ve always said it’s just as hard to write a bad book as it is to write a good book. The difference is the talent, but the work is just as hard. I’ve always refused to write book reviews for The Times — they’ve always asked me to since I was 27,” she said. “I’m not an assassin and I know how hard it is to write.”
She said she loved Colson Whitehead’s book, “Harlem Shuffle.” “I think he’s a wonderful writer, really. She also mentioned enjoying Anthony Veasna So’s ‘After Parties’ – which led to a question about Toni Morrison, who died in 2019.
“First of all, not only would I recommend, but if I was president, I would order everyone to read Toni. OK, that would be a law,” she said. ever read a book by Toni Morrison, who was a personal friend of Lebowitz, she said, “What I always do with people, even with writers not as good as Toni — most writers are less writers than Toni doesn’t was — if you’ve never read an author, especially an important writer like Toni, read them in order. [the author’s work] in the order of their publication. Then you see the writer grow and change. To me, that’s the most interesting thing to see.
“A Conversation with Fran Lebowitz”
WHEN – Postponed to 7 p.m. on November 29
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $21 and up
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org