Fran Lebowitz on Becoming a Real Writer

“People who are meant to become real writers are marginal enough already. Why else would they want to be writers? The only way someone can see something is by being outside it. A person who fits into the culture, who is truly acceptable to a society, would never become a writer in the profound sense of that word. Even Edith Wharton, who looked to be at the top of our society, was not truly acceptable because of her sensibility. That was marginalizing enough. She wasn’t black or Latina or poor, and although those things can work in that direction, that isn’t, contrary to popular opinion, the most important sort of distinction. What if someone wants to write about something else entirely? Luckily for us, homosexuality wasn’t Oscar Wilde’s direct subject. He didn’t need a subject. Unlucky people have a subject thrust upon them. I can’t think of a worse thing to be than a black writer, because to be a black writer means to be forced constantly to write about being black. Nothing could be more confining. I’ve always been grateful to be a second- rather than a first-generation American Jew, so I didn’t have to be obsessed with my Jewish identity. Blacks in this country may never have that luxury.”