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

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:

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.