"The fervor that I had [for Barack Obama] was to not have John McCain be the president. And the fervor I have now is to not have Mitt Romney be the president."
Fran Lebowitz's writer's block is almost as legendary as her wit. Her "latest" book, Social Studies, was published in 1981. Since those early humor essays, Lebowitz has earned her keep mostly as a champion talker, captured most prominently in the 2010 documentary Public Speaking, directed by her friend Martin Scorsese. She comes to Sanders Theatre October 10 for a Celebrity Series event to have a talk "primarily but not solely about the election" with another friend, the columnist Frank Rich. Here's some of what she had to say recently — edited and abridged — when I caught her on the phone from her home in New York.
Have you become more radical? Yes! Isn't that surprising? Of course, when I was young, radical people were actually blowing things up. That doesn't seem to occur in American politics any more. I always said during the Vietnam War, "No, I'm not joining the Weather Underground, no I'm not blowing anything up." So I knew many people far, far to the left of me. I've always been, basically, a conventional liberal Democrat. So yes, I'm probably angrier, and maybe I am more radical, but the world is so much more conservative that it's hard to make that determination.
A conventional liberal Democrat. . . . . What did that mean at the time? The white people I knew at the time who were most radical were the richest. And I often pointed this out: "Well, I'm sorry, I'm just a second generation Jew; I'm not a fifth generation WASP, so I don't feel that America is the worst place in the world. I think that, I don't know, Nazi Germany was worse." [Laughs.] So that kind of affected my non-participation in those kind of things. I grew up in an environment where people adored Franklin Roosevelt — and continued to adore him even after they found out he wasn't the perfect man they thought he was. So I'm afraid that I'm a New Deal Democrat.
Which these days is a very radical thing. Yes, but that's not because I changed. The world changed. I haven't changed very much in my life. Except physically. [LAUGHS.] I made up my mind, apparently, pretty much at birth. I've changed some of my ideas, but not many. Not as many as some people. I did not become more conservative as I got older, which I saw plenty of people do. Plenty of my contemporaries.
People who are critical of me — of whom there are legions — might say, well, because these people got very rich. But to me that is not a reason to change your political opinions. In fact, first you change your ideas and then you get very rich. You've decided that's what you want to do. Despite the fact that we live in a country where people think it's in the realm of genius to get rich. What it requires to get rich is focused ruthlessness. It's not that complicated.