Friday, January 7, 2011

Nora Ephron: I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections

From NPR's Morning Edition: You might say Nora Ephron — raised in Beverly Hills, the daughter of New York playwrights who moved west to write screenplays for the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy — was born to tell stories. As an adult, Ephron worked as a journalist. Later she made her own name in the movies, writing When Harry Met Sally and directing scripts of her own — including Sleepless in Seattle and Julie & Julia. More recently, the 69-year-old Ephron has been sharing reflections on aging, first in her book I Feel Bad About My Neck and now in a new collection called I Remember Nothing. In the latter, Nora Ephron spins stories on a potpourri of subjects: divorce, disdain for egg-white omelets, and most especially memory loss. "I have been forgetting things for years – at least since I was in my 30s," Ephron writes in the book's opening paragraph. "I know this because I wrote something about it at the time; I have proof. Of course I can't remember exactly where I wrote about it or when, but I could probably hunt it up if I had to."

From Publishers Weekly: Reading these succinct, razor-sharp essays by veteran humorist (I Feel Bad About My Neck), novelist, and screenwriter-director Ephron is to be reminded that she cut her teeth as a New York Post writer in the 1960s, as she recounts in the most substantial selection here, "Journalism: A Love Story." Forthright, frequently wickedly backhanded, these essays cover the gamut of later-life observations (she is 69), from the dourly hilarious title essay about losing her memory, which asserts that her ubiquitous senior moment has now become the requisite Google moment, to several flimsy lists, such as "Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again," e.g., "Movies have no political effect whatsoever." Shorts such as the several "I Just Want to Say" pieces feature Ephron's trademark prickly contrariness and are stylistically digestible for the tabloids. Other essays delve into memories of fascinating people she knew, such as the Lillian Hellman of Pentimento, whom she adored until the older woman's egomania rubbed her the wrong way. Most winning, however, are her priceless reflections on her early life, such as growing up in Beverly Hills with her movie-people parents, and how being divorced shaped the bulk of her life, in "The D Word." There's an elegiac quality to many of these pieces, handled with wit and tenderness.

From The New York Times: Nora Ephron worries about a failing memory in the title piece of “I Remember Nothing,” her inviting new collection of essays. But even her most amnesiac readers still remember “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” the 2006 collection that this new book closely resembles. That resemblance is helpful in some ways and alarming in others. Each of these books is 137 pages long. Their covers are similarly formatted, with the same font used for the author’s name. One of Nora Ephron's back-cover portraits was taken by someone named Elena, the other by someone named Ilona; either way, Ms. Ephron looks attractive, accessible and well worth listening to. Her repackaged aperçus are now $3 more expensive than they were four years ago. She is now 69, not 65, and her sense of creeping mortality has changed accordingly. But the most salient comparisons are those between the lengths and origins of each book’s articles. “I Feel Bad About My Neck” had 15 entries, most of them tight, beguiling, exemplary essays written for print magazines (O, Vogue, The New Yorker) and The New York Times. “I Remember Nothing” has 23 pieces, and most of them are much shorter and less shapely. Some sound like the hurried Huffington Post blog entries that they seemingly were. The single strangest inclusion is a one-paragraph item titled “I Just Want to Say: Chicken Soup” and asks whether chicken soup creates colds instead of curing them. This is the inexplicably truncated lead paragraph of a much longer Op-Ed article from The Times headlined “The Chicken Soup Chronicles.” And all it amounts to is the wry, five-sentence version of a one-liner.

Nora Ephron (born May 19, 1941) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, journalist, author, and blogger. She is best known for her romantic comedies and is a triple nominee for the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay; for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle. She sometimes writes with her sister Delia Ephron. Her most recent film is Julie & Julia. Ephron graduated from Wellesley College in 1962 and worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy.

After a satire Nora Ephron wrote lampooning the Post caught the editor's eye, the author landed a job at the New York Post, where she stayed as a reporter for five years. In 1966, Ephron broke the news in the Post that Bob Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a private ceremony three and a half months before. Upon becoming a successful writer, she wrote a column on women's issues for Esquire. In this position, Ephron made a name for herself by taking on subjects as wide-ranging as Dorothy Schiff, her former boss and owner of the Post; Betty Friedan, whom she chastised for pursuing a feud with Gloria Steinem; and her alma mater Wellesley, which she said had turned out a generation of "docile" women." A 1968 send-up of Women's Wear Daily in Cosmopolitan resulted in threats of a lawsuit from WWD. While married to Bernstein in the mid-1970s, at her husband and Bob Woodward's request, she helped Bernstein re-write William Goldman's script for All the President's Men, because the two journalists were not happy with it. The Ephron-Bernstein script was not used in the end, but was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job, for a television movie. Ephron's 2002 play Imaginary Friends explores the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy.

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