Fran Lebowitz: Essays vs. Docuseries

I didn’t know of Fran Lebowitz until recently, when I watched the docuseries Pretend It’s A City on Netflix. Several friends recommended this series to me, thinking I would love it, and they were so right. The series is really just a collection of conversations with writer Fran Lebowitz, who is hysterically funny, mostly on the topic of New York City.

Naturally, after enjoying the series so much, I was keen to look at some of Lebowitz’s writing, and so I picked up The Fran Lebowitz Reader, which is comprised of her two published books: Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. Both are collections of short, humorous, non-fiction essays, and one thing I really enjoyed was the brevity of these short pieces – I could easily fit short reads on short breaks from work or during Hulu commercials.

And yet, I have to admit that I didn’t find Lebowitz’s short essays quite as entertaining as her interviews. Of course, Pretend It’s A City was filmed many years after the publication of Lebowitz’s books, so perhaps her humor or viewpoints had changed or matured in a way that appeals to me. But for me, The Fran Lebowitz Reader came off slightly more silly and perhaps slightly less cynical than Pretend It’s A City. That said, there are certainly a few comic gems in the written collection, and both the docuseries and the book proved to be, for me at least, an entertaining and close depiction of life in New York City.

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