Fran Lebowitz loves to answer questions
Park City Institute will present author on Saturday
Author and public speaker Fran Lebowitz, who will appear at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, was a curious child who asked a lot of questions.
“Noticing things was something that just came to me,” Lebowitz said during a Park Record interview.
Lebowitz felt the urge to ask questions in part because she grew up in the 1950s, a time without smart phones, computers, iPads, internet and Wi-Fi.
“I was a child in the 1950s, and let me assure you, in the 1950s, no adult asked any child a question,” she said. “It just wasn’t done. It didn’t have to do with my particular parents, or where I lived. It was pretty much across the board. The idea, I believe, was, ‘you’re a child. What could you possibly know?’”
Lebowitz’s mom would often receive the bulk of the questions.
“Also, in the 1950s, the parent you were mostly with was your mother,” she said. “So, I asked my mother a lot of questions, and she answered most of them, apparently even if she didn’t know the answer.”
Lebowitz remembers one particular question that really made her think her mother wasn’t a plethora of information.
“I am burdened, to some extent, with an incredible memory of my childhood, by which I mean it wasn’t an incredible childhood, but that I really remember numerous details,” she said. “I remember asking, as all children did then because we didn’t have sources of information like children do today, why the sky was blue.
“My mother told me because it reflected the water of the ocean, which you undoubtedly know that almost the exact opposite is true,” Lebowitz said. “I believe my mother told me that because she thought that.”
During Saturday night’s event, Lebowitz will be the one with the answers.
“Someone, usually a local journalist, interviews me on stage for about a half-hour and then I take questions from the audience for an hour,” she said. “I will talk about whatever the interviewer wants to talk about and whatever the audience wants to talk about.”
The questions, at Lebowitz’ request are not given to her beforehand.
“I don’t think of it as being at the mercy of the interview,” she said. “I love being asked questions. It’s my hobby, and I don’t want to know the questions because it’s not as fun.
“Occasionally someone will ask me a question that I won’t answer, but that’s always something personal,” Lebowitz said. “Other than that, like all Americans, I have opinions, whether or not I know anything about the subject.”
Take technology, for instance.
“Personally, I don’t have a computer or a cell phone and I don’t have a microwave oven,” she said. “The most modern device I have is an answering machine, and sometimes I have to tell whoever calls me how to leave their phone number so I can call them back.”
When Lebowitz was asked whether or not technology benefited or hindered children, she said she wasn’t sure.
“I don’t have any children, which is something I have never regretted, by the way, so I don’t know whether or not all of this technology is good or bad for them,” she said.
Lebowitz does know children born into technology are a different breed than she is.
“Luckily, I will be dead before they are in charge of the world,” she said with a laugh.
One of the big differences between her and the younger generation lies within the power of observation.
“Even people who are 35 and 40 are different than me in the way that they concentrate on these devices all the time and are always looking down at them,” Lebowitz said. “In New York, at a certain point, I felt I had the streets all to myself because I am walking down the street looking up.
“I felt as if the entire city has been handed over to me,” she said. “I feel like the only person out of 8 million people who can see what they did on Washington Avenue because they didn’t look up.”
Lebowitz also believes she wouldn’t use a smart phone while walking if she ever had one.
“It would never occur to me to use it on the street,” she said. “You see people walk across 7th Avenue, a busy thoroughfare, while not looking up.
“In my opinion, these people are more optimistic than I am, because they imagine everyone will just stop their cars for them or get out of their way,” Lebowitz said. “People in New York ride bikes while using them. And, I’m sure you have noticed, people drive cars while using them. These things are dangerous to everybody.”
Still, she thinks the people who use smart phones and tablets in interesting ways are little children.
“Even people who are 25 and older do not use them, in my opinion, in an original way,” she said. “It’s like Uber. I mean it’s a car ride. It may be a new way to get a car ride, but it’s a car ride.
“In my observation, which is very limited by not having these things and not understanding anything more complicated than a ball-point pen, the biggest invention is the thing itself,” Lebowitz said. “It’s interesting that almost everyone knows Mark Zuckerberg, but doesn’t know who invented the first code, but many people don’t know who invented the first computer. That is probably Americans aren’t interested in who they are because they didn’t get rich.”
Park City Institute will present and Evening with Fran Lebowitz at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.
Tickets range from $29 to $79 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
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