Likely Stories: Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz

Jul 27, 2017

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

My favorite comedian is the curmudgeonly Fran Leibowitz.  Her humor is dry but very funny.  I recently saw a documentary about her, and they mentioned two books she had written back in the late 70s.  Metropolitan Life was easy to find, and I gleefully spent a day enjoying these essays.  Fran is an author, public speaker, and the definitive New Yorker. 

Metropolitan Life is a collection of essays covering all sorts of annoyances.  Here are some samples.  In “Vocational Guidance for the Truly Ambitious,” she offers a check list to help sort out a career path.  “If my house or apartment was on fire the first thing I would save would be … a. My son, b. My cat, c. My boyfriend, d. My mention in Women’s Wear Daily; […] My idea of a good party is … a. A big, noisy bash, with lots of liquor and lots of action, b. Good talk, good food, good wine, c. A few close friends for dinner and bridge, d. One to which I cannot get invited; […] My pet peeve about my husband is his …a. Snoring, b. Habit of leaving the cap off the toothpaste, c. Drinking buddies, d. Stubbornness, e. Imperial Concubines” (12-13).

Fran has somewhat of an aversion to children, and she has a list of cons.  For instance, “Even when freshly washed and relieved of all obvious confections, children tend to be sticky.  One can only assume that this has something to do with not smoking enough.”  Also, “Children respond inadequately to sardonic humor and veiled threats” (34). 

Fran also has an aversion to scientists.  She writes, “It is only to be expected that people of this sort are not often invited out.  After all, a person who might well spend an entire evening staring at a kitchen utensil has little to recommend him as a dinner companion.  It is far too risky—particularly if the person in question is moved to share his thoughts with others.  Physical laws are not amusing.  Mathematical symbols do not readily lend themselves to double entendre.  Chemical properties are seldom cause for levity.  These facts make it intolerable for a gathering ever to include more than one scientist.  More than one scientist at a table is bad luck—not to mention bad taste.” (78). 

In regard to food, she muses, “If there was no such thing as food, Oyster Bay would be called just Bay, and for the title of The Cherry Orchard Chekhov would have chosen A Group of Empty Trees, Regularly Spaced” (111).  I did say she had a dry sense of humor!  An epithet ascribed to her is “I can assure you, in real life, there is no such thing as algebra.”  Fran Leibowitz is an acquired taste to be sure, and she is not above sprinkling a few dated non-politically correct comments in her writings.  But I find her hilarious, and you might too, so give Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz a try.  You could become a fan.  5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories and happy reading.