Fran Lebowitz Edmund White - Essay

Edmund White

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Like all satirists [Lebowitz] is a moralist, and like most moralists she is conservative….

Lebowitz is clear-eyed. She knows, "There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness and death." Hence her contempt for the false comfort of self-help books….

Her vigilance against hip new words is tireless. That is, she objects to CB slang because it is "on the one hand too colorful and on the other hand lacking a counterpart for the words pearl gray."…

There are few writers who, in the course of registering opinions, do not fail to render, however unwittingly, a portrait of themselves. Fran emerges as urbane …, as independent, snobbish and, dare we say it, just a tad lazy.

Urbane—or rather, urban….

Fran's snobbishness should be studied by psychiatrists since it is the perfect ego defense; she looks down on absolutely everyone. Perhaps this alienation arises from the plight of the modern artist in contemporary society. In Fran's words, "The servant problem being what it is, one would think it apparent that a society that provides a Helper for tuna but compels a writer to pack her own suitcases desperately needs to reorder its priorities." (p. 1)

It is as a purist, however, that Fran will be remembered. She pleads with the general public to "refrain from starting trends, overcoming inhibitions, or developing hidden talents." (p. 6)

Edmund White, "Boston Ferns Don't Make Fettucine," in Book World—The Washington Post (© The Washington Post), April 30, 1978, pp. 1, 6.