Thursday, May 5, 2011

Discovering Fran Lebowitz

I came across a Martin Scorsese documentary about Fran Lebowitz last night on HBO called Public Speaking and it raised a few questions for me.

First: Why was I familiar with the name but none of her work? I've known the name Fran Lebowitz for quite some time, but only knew it as one of those names I should know to seem like I'm in tune with culture.

Turns out she is (was, really) an essayist and a writer for a few magazines, was part of Andy Warhol's entourage, and has since been a public speaker doing college tours and other venues where people pay her to tell them her opinion. Or, to put it another way, someone who worked for a time, put out great material, and then proceeded to simply exist. Awesome!

Second: Why is she so right? Part of her shtick is that she is always right. She talks about it in the movie as well. That sounds absurd just hearing it, but after watching the documentary, I've come to the conclusion that she's pretty much correct.

For example, this quip from the movie: "writers have to know things." This is in reference to how writing is inherently a different form of art from the others, in that to paint one just needs a pretty landscape, a brush and some paint, or to act one just needs to regurgitate lines in front of an audience. But to write, one must know something worth writing about.

This ties in to her belief that there are just too many writers and that the things we chose to write about are pretty much worthless. Funnily enough, I agree… but that's not going to stop me from writing here anyway!

I plan on picking up her two published essay collections, even if they are 30+ years old at this point, because I'm going to guess that they are packed full of snarky wisdom, and I need that right about now in my life.

If you happen to see Public Speaking on HBO or Netflix or wherever, I'd definitely give it a watch. With a natural born opinionated talker being filmed by an amazing director, the movie turned out to be very interesting even without knowing much about Fran Lebowitz before hand.

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