Hailed as much for her signature androgynous style as her scathing social commentary, Fran Lebowitz has spent a lifetime critiquing New York culture. Upon moving to the city as a teen, Lebowitz worked a string of odd jobs – including driving taxis, peddling belts, and writing pornography – before Andy Warhol hired her as a columnist for Interview magazine. In the decades since, she’s published bestselling humorist essay collections and toured as an acerbic orator, providing wise-cracking cultural satire through a uniquely New York lens.
For an interview with Five Books, Lebowitz was asked to name five writers that best capture the beloved city that never sleeps. Her recommended authors are “people who came to New York for freedom – not so they could get rich, but so they could be free to pursue their interests and live their lives the way they wanted.” Find Fran’s reading list below, and complement with the bookshelves of Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Nora Ephron.
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
“People should still read Parker because she is really funny. When you read the book reviews she wrote 60 years ago, you still laugh out loud, even if you don’t know the book.” -FL
The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965 by Dawn Powell
“You should read Dawn Powell’s novels and then read her diaries, or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. But when you read her diaries you see what it really means to be a writer. She struggled her whole life for money. She’s constantly worrying about money, because she doesn’t have any. This is the condition of most writers.” -FL
Queer Street by James McCourt
“I beg people to read this book. He tells you about a sensibility that has ceased to exist. In this book you see what the status markers were within the homosexual community in this era. And the status markers were how much you knew, how smart you were, how cultivated you were. It had nothing to do with money – that’s not what status was about. There used to be competing values in this culture.” -FL
Instant Lives And More by Howard Moss, drawings by Edward Gorey
“The Instant Lives are parodies of the biographies of writers, composers and artists written in the style of whomever they are about. They are incredibly layered and immensely funny.” -FL
Cheap Novelties by Ben Katchor
“Ben Katchor has an incredible eye for minute details. You see in this book a profoundly New York sensibility, which is very different from these other authors. It is not a mandarin sensibility, but it is piercingly intelligent and observant. If you read this book, or any of his books, you are going to get a view of New York that is not available anywhere else.” -FL
(via Five Books)