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Bard Fisher Center Presents Fran Lebowitz: A Conversation with Daniel Mendelsohn

Eleanor Davis
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents humorist and quintessential New Yorker Fran Lebowitz reflecting on American life—from pet peeves to timely issues—in conversation with “our most irresistible literary critic,” Bard Professor of Humanities Daniel Mendelsohn. “Fran Lebowitz: A Conversation with Daniel Mendelsohn” takes place on Friday, April 1, at 8 p.m. in the Sosnoff Theater. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered online at or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.
Purveyor of urban cool, witty chronicler of the “me decade” and the cultural satirist whom many call the heir to Dorothy Parker, Lebowitz remains one of the foremost advocates of the Extreme Statement. She offers insights on timely issues such as gender, race, gay rights, and the media as well as celebrity culture, tourists and strollers.
“Fran Lebowitz’s trademark is the sneer; she disapproves of virtually everything except sleep, cigarette smoking, and good furniture. Her essays and topical interviews on subjects ranging from the difficulty of finding an acceptable apartment to the art of freeloading at weekend houses have come to be regarded as classics of literary humor and social observation.” — The Paris Review

Mendelsohn is an internationally bestselling author, award-winning critic and essayist, and columnist for Harper’s. “Arguably the best writer and critic at work today,” writes The New York Review of Books. “There is nothing to which he does not bring a fresh perspective.” The Times of London calls Mendelsohn “a brilliant storyteller.” He is currently Charles Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities at Bard College.
For more information about this event go to or by call the box office at 845-758-7900.
About the Participants
In a recent interview in the New York Observer, Fran Lebowitz holds forth on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “We don’t have time for Bloomberg...there are certain things that are in the public sphere and certain things that are in the private sphere. ...What people eat? It’s their own business. Bedbugs he should take care of. That’s a public health issue. Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘Do you like New York?’ ‘No, too salty.’”

Lebowitz on multiculturalism: “It’s pathetic. Of course the world is diverse. And the differences always express themselves. It’s much more important that you emphasize similarities . . . there is practically nobody willing to identify themselves as American anymore because everybody is too busy identifying themselves with the area of their lives in which they feel the most victimized.” On aging: “At a certain point, the worst picture taken of you when you are 25 is better than the best picture taken of you when you’re 45,” and “What everyone says when you turn 60 is, ‘It’s better than the alternative.’ If the only thing worse than being 60 is death, that’s pretty bad.”

That is Fran Lebowitz off the cuff. Her writing—pointed, taut and economical—is equally forthright, irascible, and unapologetically opinionated. Fran Lebowitz’s first two classic books of essays, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, have been collected in the Fran Lebowitz Reader. She is also the author of the children’s book, Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas. She recently broke a ten-year writer’s block and is back at work on her novel, Exterior Signs of Wealth. A documentary film about Fran Lebowitz, Public Speaking, directed by Martin Scorsese, premiered on HBO in November 2010.
Daniel Mendelsohn began his career in journalism in 1991, contributing to such publications as The Village Voice and The Nation while completing his Ph. D. in Classics at Princeton. Since then his translations, reviews, and essays on books, movies, theater, and television have appeared regularly in numerous national publications, most frequently the New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times.
Mendelsohn is the author of seven books. The Elusive Embrace (1999), a memoir of family history and sexual identity twined around meditations on classical texts, was a New York Times Notable Book of 1999 and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. In 2002 he published a scholarly study of Greek tragedy, published by the Oxford University Press. His first collection of essays, How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken (2008) was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year; his second collection, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture (2012), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and runner-up for the PEN Art of the Essay Award.
In 2009, after twelve years of work and study, Mendelsohn published an acclaimed translation, with commentary, of the complete works of the Alexandrian Greek poet C. P. Cavafy. A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and shortlisted for the Criticos Prize in the first English translation to include the lost “Unfinished Poems.”
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, the 2006 account of Mendelsohn’s search for information about six relatives who perished in the Holocaust, was a New York Times and international bestseller, and went on to win the National Books Critics Circle Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Salon Book Award in the United States, as well as the Prix Médicis in France and many other honors in the US and abroad; with more than half a million copies in print, it has been published in over fifteen languages.
Mendelsohn’s other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Book Reviewing, and the George Jean Nathan Prize for Drama Criticism. In 2008 he was placed by The Economist on its list of the best critics writing in the English language. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Most recently, Daniel Mendelsohn received the 2014 Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for “prose that merits recognition for the quality of its style.” 
Mendelsohn lives in the Hudson Valley and teaches literature at Bard College. He is currently working on a book-length account of his travels around the Mediterranean with his late father, a scientist, while reading the Odyssey.
The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College
Named for the late Richard B. Fisher, the former chair of Bard’s Board of Trustees, the Fisher Center has become an influential force in performing arts programming, earning critical acclaim for innovative productions of opera, orchestral, chamber, dance, and theater programs. The Center was designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry and distinguished acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, and has received international praise for its breathtaking architecture and superb sound.
Each summer the Fisher Center presents the Bard SummerScape festival, eight weeks of performing arts programs reflecting the life and times of the featured composer of the esteemed Bard Music Festival, now celebrating its 26th year. Fall and spring seasons include original productions, special one-night-only concerts, and touring artists from around the globe.
The Fisher Center is home to the Bard College Theater & Performance and Dance Programs, providing students access to exceptional theater facilities and opportunities to work with professional directors and dramaturges on publicly attended productions throughout the year. The Bard College Conservatory of Music and Bard College Music Program stage regular orchestral and chamber concerts.
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March 17, 2016


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This event was last updated on 03-18-2016