Watch Fran Lebowitz Hilariously Recount Toni Morrison Reading Her Bad Reviews

Lessons in friendship from two people you really want to be friends with.

Morrison with Lebowitz at a 2011 film screening in New York City. Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch /IPX

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Everyone needs a friend like Toni Morrison.

That much was made clear as hundreds of people packed into New York City’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on Thursday to pay tribute to the late author, who died on August 5 at the age of 88. The crowd was mostly dedicated readers of her work, the fans, and the event was one of a handful of public memorials dedicated to Morrison’s legacy in recent weeks. But what shined through wasn’t just Morrison’s brilliance as a writer, or as an editor, but as the kind of dedicated friend who knew just the thing to say when the sensitive writer-types in her life were having meltdowns.

Fran Lebowitz, a close friend of Morrison’s for nearly 40 years, was one of more than a dozen people (including Oprah) who spoke at the memorial. “Everyone knows what kind of writer Toni was, everyone knows what kind of political influence Toni was, everyone knows what kind of cultural earthquake Toni was, but not everyone knows what kind of friend Toni was,” Lebowitz said.

Lebowitz went on to describe an instance when Morrison called her up from Paris after a male reviewer wrote a particularly harsh review of Lebowtiz’s work. “Don’t take it seriously,” she recounted Morrison telling her. “Reviews aren’t important, books are important.” Morrison then went on to quote “word for word” half a dozen bad reviews of her books. “Many of Toni’s reviews were absolutely despicable,” Lebowitz said. “They reeked of misogny and racism.”

So what kind of friend was Morrison? “Toni was the kind of friend who called you to read her bad reviews,” Lebowitz said.

Watch Lebowtiz’s moving yet hilarious speech in full below:


If you buy a book using the Bookshop link on this page, a small share of the proceeds supports our journalism.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate