The good news is: Writer, social commentator, wit, and wag Fran Lebowitz is coming to Seattle to entertain questions. The bad news is... pretty much everything else. So let's focus on her.
Since the success of her two essay collections, Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981), Lebowitz has been less visible as a writer than as a public speaker. In 2010, Martin Scorsese released a documentary about her called Public Speaking, in which she can be seen doing exactly what she'll be doing at Benaroya Hall on February 18: being interviewed onstage for a half hour or so (usually by a local journalist, though in the movie she gets Toni Morrison), then taking questions from the audience for about an hour.
It's not exactly a performance, but it's not exactly not one, either. It's in public. It's hugely entertaining, hilarious, and interesting. Money is paid. Money is earned. But the premise is always that Lebowitz is unswervingly Lebowitz—last of the funny public intellectuals—and the audience members wait in line to ask what she thinks about culture, politics, art, literature, criticism, smoking, or whichever other facet of the West's decline they deem most worthy. She answers. Next question.
A list of the world's worst day jobs would be unlikely to include this one.
Lebowitz doesn't disagree.
"The questions from the audience are fun," she says from a landline phone in New York, "because I have no idea what people are going to ask. Believe me, you have no idea."
I find this a little hard to believe, especially a year after a presidential election that still feels like a personal assault.
"Well," she grants me, "of course I always got some political questions. But since the campaign—not just the election—the questions are significantly about politics. I can't say I'm surprised, because even my friends who are, like, marginally interested in politics are now completely insane. So, since everyone's been driven insane, and I am also a person who is driven insane, I understand it. It's good, because of course that's what everyone's thinking about anyway."
But what is she thinking?
"Here is what everyone has to know," Lebowitz says. "In a presidential election, you have two choices. You don't have 150 choices. So there was a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Those were your choices. It doesn't matter whether she was your dream date. It makes no difference. This idea that you have to like people, to me, is very childish. And it's much more prevalent in people who are young than it is in people who are older, who grew up in an era where no one ever asked us whether we liked things."
That might be inconceivable to people raised to equate the concept of democracy and voting with their consumer dollar.
"The idea that everything is a retail experience absolutely has to change—or things will get even worse," she says. "You may think they can't get worse, but I can tell you for a fact, with absolute certitude, that no matter how horrible things are, they can always get worse."