Social Studies
by Fran Lebowitz

Humor in the self-deprecating style of Robert Benchley, but with satire and sarcasm added. She is as far out of step with the times as a white, paleolibertarian, man. For one thing she smokes. For another she dislikes nature and the outdoors in general. She even has a skeptical attitude about the kind of architecture and interior decorating that the New York Times has been promoting for decades. In this and in other ways she is like Tom Wolfe.

She is a New Yorker through and through. She hates pets and wants them to be outlawed. She has a solution for those who defend pets and seeing-eye dogs in the name of the lonely and the blind: let the lonely lead the blind.

“Now, nature, as I am only too well aware, has her enthusiasts, but on the whole, I am not to be counted among them. To put it rather bluntly, I am not the type who wants to go back to the land—I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel. This state of affairs is partially due to the fact that nature and I have so little in common. We don't go to the same restaurants, laugh at the same jokes or, most significant, see the same people. (55)

First of all, nature is by and large to be found out of doors, a location where, it cannot be argued, there are never enough comfortable chairs. Secondly, for fully half of the time it is day out there, a situation created by just the sort of harsh overhead lighting that is so unflattering to the heavy smoker. Lastly, and most pertinent to this discourse, is the fact that natural things are by their very definition wild, unkempt and more often than not crawling with bugs. Quite obviously, then, natural things are just the kind of things that one does not strive to acquire. (55—56)

Plainly given to gross generalization, Earthman is immediately recognizable by a relationship to green leafy vegetables that can best be described as camaraderie. He eats and thinks low on the food chain and often believes in reincarnation—a theory that at least explains where he gets his money. His favorite book is something called The Whole Earth Catalog, from which he apparently orders his clothes, and he is so frequently to be seen gazing at the stars that one can only hope that he is thinking of moving. (88)

A great many people in Los Angeles are on special diets that restrict their intake of synthetic foods. The reason for this appears to be a widely held belief that organically grown fruits and vegetables make the cocaine work faster. (93)

I understand, of course, that many people find smoking objectionable. That is their right. I would, I assure you, be the very last to criticize the annoyed. I myself find many—even most—things objectionable. Being offended is the natural consequence of leaving one's home. I do not like aftershave lotion, adults who roller-skate, children who speak French, or anyone who is unduly tan. I do not, however, go around enacting legislation and putting up signs. In private I avoid such people; in public they have the run of the place. I stay at home as much as possible, and so should they. When it is necessary, however, to go out of the house, they must be prepared, as I am, to deal with the unpleasant personal habits of others. That is what "public" means. If you can't stand the heat, get back in the kitchen. (115—116)

Violet will be a good color for hair at just about the same time that brunette becomes a good color for flowers. (153)

Year Read: 1997

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