“Density creates that dynamic”: Lebowitz on NYC and its writers

"I am not the type who wants to go back to the land; I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel."

"Humility is no substitute for a good personality." (Photo: Christopher Macsurak)

When I first read Fran Lebowitz‘s Metropolitan Life in 1978, it was hard not to be  captivated by truisms such as these:  “There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death.”

Over at The Browser, Lebowitz discusses  New York, and New York writers.

Nowadays, she seems disgrunted with the place whose ethos she personifies:  “New York has always, always, always – from the Dutch until this day – been about real estate. But it was a billion real estate people – it was not centrally planned, which it now is. In that way, Bloomberg is like Mao. One of the things that Bloomberg did was make a plan for knocking down New York and building up Marina del Rey, or whatever he thinks this is. That was never done before. …

“Present-day New York has been made to attract people who didn’t like New York. That’s how we get a zillion tourists here, especially American tourists, who never liked New York. Now they like New York. What does that mean? Does that mean they’ve suddenly become much more sophisticated? No. It means that New York has become more like the places they come from. That won’t last.”What is immutable about New York is that it’s always changing and it’s relatively hard to live here – relative to the places where people drive from mall to country club. It’s expensive, it’s not necessarily clean and you have to walk. So I think, in the end, the people who will be in New York are the people who deserve to be here – people like me.”

And she still defends smoking:

Urban economist Ed Glaeser told me that cities should be credited for humanity’s greatest hits – from Athenian philosophy through Facebook – because cities enable us to casually exchange ideas, information and inspiration. Do you second this opinion?

I certainly second that opinion. Density creates that dynamic. You don’t get that in Los Angeles, I don’t care who claims it. I don’t care how many rich people build museums in LA. To me, it’s not a city if people spend half their day in a car.

Has Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s smoking ban cut down on the kind of casual exchanges that help New York happen?

I said directly to Michael Bloomberg, “You know what sitting around in bars and restaurants, talking and smoking and drinking, is called, Mike?” He said, “What?” I said, “It’s called the history of art.”

Read the whole thing here.  Or you can stick with the one-liners:

“Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publications.”

“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

“Success didn’t spoil me, I’ve always been insufferable.”


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5 Responses to ““Density creates that dynamic”: Lebowitz on NYC and its writers”

  1. Elaine Ray Says:

    I was just in Manhattan during the height of the holiday season. Fran’s right about New York becoming more like the places where tourists come from, with its Old Navy’s and Starbucks and other chain stores you can find anywhere USA . But there is still nothing like Broadway and off Broadway and Harlem and Brooklyn and the Village.

  2. JWAnglund Says:

    One summer, just after Fran’s Met Life came out, my best friend and I drove to Provincetown and read it out loud on the beach and at Café Blasé. Laughing felt good! Then on impulse we drove to Manhattan and, not unlike most people, were driving around looking for parking. Suddenly I spotted Fran talking to a couple of women. I pointed and screamed, “Look it’s Fran Lebowitz!” I was too shy to talk, but my friend said hello. Fran asked, “Do I know you?” My friend said, “We know you from your book.” “Oh, hi,” she said, sounding kind of bored. I think we were more stunned by the statistical unlikeliness of running into her in that “dynamic density” than by the actual encounter. Soon, we lost most of our friends, and many years passed before we felt like laughing again.

  3. Cynthia Haven Says:

    What a story! Thanks!

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    I love New York, too … but … I prefer the quiet of Palo Alto!

  5. Bill Peschel Says:

    Lebowitz is a joy to read so long as you take nothing she says seriously. Once you try to unpack her sayings, you become insufferable, and not in a good way.