Some people say Woody Allen, others still cite Carrie Bradshaw; some people move to New York intending to see if it’s actually anything like a Velvet Underground song, while others think they can arrive as a modern-day Holly Golightly — but before anybody moves to New York, most have one or two people, real or fictional, that they hold up as the best example of how one should look, act, and talk when living in the Big Apple. I call this the New York Spirit Guide, and before I made the move to New York a decade ago, mine was (and still is) Fran Lebowitz. Although it is very un-Fran Lebowitzlike to admit something like this in a public forum, I feel that with her upcoming PEN World Voices event,where she’ll be speaking with the very great novelist A.M. Homes this Friday, a little Fran appreciation is due.
Lebowitz is, without question, the greatest living American humorist, and the reason she beats out all the David Sedaris and Andy Borowitz types is simply because, while Sedaris and Borowitz try (and usually succeed) to be funny, Lebowitz’s humor is a natural thing. She doesn’t force anything, though that probably also explains her long and well-documented case of epic writer’s block. She hasn’t given us much over the last few decades in terms of writing, but what she published in the past was about 30 years ahead of the curve. Take her musings on the silly acronyms we assign to specific neighborhoods in New York City, which she wrote about in 1978’s Metropolitan Life: annoyed by SoHo, TriBeCa, and NoHo, Lebowitz came up with NoTifSoSher (North of Tiffany’s, South of the Sherry-Netherland), BeJelfth (Between Jane and Twelfth), and my personal favorite, Little Humility, which is “a bastion of male camaraderie,” that “is bounded on the east by the beginning of Christopher Street and on the west by the Hudson River.” Lebowitz’s humor is the type you really get if you are a New Yorker, but it also resonates if you want to be one.
Moreover, Lebowitz understands the importance of having a uniform: white collared shirts paired with blazers made by the iconic Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard never go out of style. As a nonsmoker, I still felt bad when the smoking ban was put into place because I thought, “What will Fran do?” Lebowitz has also experienced the pinnacle of quintessentially insider-NYC experiences: she played a judge on Law & Order:
So it’s a Friday night, you’re in New York, and you want something to do. Fran Lebowitz is giving you an opportunity to listen to her talk, and as a citizen of this great city, you might be morally — if not lawfully — obligated to attend.