on November 14, 2010
I love Nora Ephron: her books, her screenplays, her essays. But, boy, did she snooker me into this one. I purchased it for my Kindle and inhaled it in under an hour. I got to the end and said "huh?" to myself ( "huh?" as in, is that all there is?)
Yeah, there were a few bon mots, a few chuckles, but not much of substance (even humorous substance). I wish I'd gone to my local bookstore and curled up in an easy chair with a latte and a copy of this book: I could have polished it off around the same time I finished my latte.
What's sad is that Ephron could offer us -- her sixty-ish female cohorts -- so much more. More depth, more reality, more humanity; along with the humor and the brittle witticisms. Save your money on this one: go to your local bookstore and enjoy that latte for a third of the price of the book.
As I finished reading Melina Bellows USA Today article and Sally Quinn's article for the Washington Post on filmmaker, writer, essayist, mother Nora Ephron, many of her friends have written about how they never knew Nora was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia.
Having read her 2010 book "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections", Nora would write about growing old but how life was changing for her as friends have died, how she was starting to forget things at 69 but most importantly, sharing experiences about her life now and memories of her life. A few of these experiences have made it into her films.
Nora Ephron was a woman who was full of life and was interested in learning about other people's lives. For those that knew her, she was more interested in the personal stories of an individual rather than talk about herself. If anyone has watched an interview featuring Nora, you can always see her trying to probe and learn more about the individual, and as they try to deflect their answering about how much they love her work, she would deflect it back to know more about their life.
She was a person who embraced life, embraced love despite having had painful relationships and enduring two divorces before marring for the third time. After reading her last book "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections", written after she learned of her illness, Nora confronts her life of growing older, losing friends but the realization that she had a few good years remaining in her life. While most people who read the book wondered why was there a hint of sadness in this book... I can't help but think that Nora knew that she didn't have many years ahead and wanted to share her life with her readers. It's not so much a book about forgetting but more about a book about remembering memories, enjoying life but also learning from the pain one experiences in life.
Nora talks about divorce, about wanting to make changes at a theater chain that she became a board member of, Pentimento, Christmas dinner with friends, e-mail and more. This was not meant to be anything like her 2006 book and if you read the plethora of reviews of people writing this book is not as good as that book, its understandable.
But now since her death, many are coming to realize that "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" was a book about a woman who has learned of her illness, knowing that she probably doesn't have many years to live and wanting to share her memories about life, what she will remember about life and also the joys and pain of life in this one book. A book that was probably written as a way for family, friends and all of us to remember her as she looks back at her life, her accomplishments and wondering if she had only a short time to live, how would she live that life.
Ephron ends the book with what she won't miss and what she will miss in life. Her kids, her husband Nick, spring, fall, waffles, bacon, a walk in the park, dinner with friends, to name a few. When Nora wrote about how she would like to live her last day, she said her perfect day would be to eat a frozen custard at Shake Shack, a walk in the park, followed by a Lactaid. Her perfect night is a good play and a dinner at Orso (although no garlic, or else she wouldn't be able to sleep). Life is indeed uncertain but I really enjoyed how she handled life, whether or not she succeed or failed, she did it, she experienced it and would try to use those experiences to help others.
Is it is a short book? Yes. It's a book that one will go through quickly in a few hours but I was entertained by it. I was grateful to Nora Ephron for writing this book and like her films, essays and novels before this, I was entertained by it. But also inspired by it as well.
Living life, learning new things...May it be writing a play, writing a book, making plum pudding that no one would eat on Christmas Day (but her) or playing multiple games of "Blitz Scrabble" or was it "Scrabble Blitz", Nora was a woman that lived life the best way she can and touched the hearts of many people through her films, her screenplay, essays and novels. And if I ever make my way to the Monkey Bar, I will surely request Nora's meatloaf or someday try cherries form Wisconsin or peppermint pie. And maybe even play a game of "Scrabble Blitz" or was it "Blitz Scrabble"?
Thank you Nora!
on November 9, 2010
Despite the title of this collection of essays, Nora Ephron remembers quite a bit, as she displays in this intermittently amusing semi-memoir, a slim, even underweight, volume of essays. There is superficial wit on display, glibness and the quick quip, but little substance. Her new book is surely destined to be a "huge best seller", as the jacket describes her previous foray, reflections on her crepey neck. Those readers who enjoyed "My Neck" will down her new book in one gulp. They may forget it as quickly.
Nora Ephron is a craftsmanly writer. But since her subject is herself, I can't help focusing on the personal side of this book. I found something rather sad in a woman who admits she jettisoned her first husband under the influence of the early 70's women's movement. This is of a piece with her penchant for acting on the mood of the present cultural moment. She is a too absorptive sponge, deeply in touch with popular delusions, though she disdains any belief system that might give her life meaning. One suspects she has chosen to marry at least two men because they are celebrated writers, and one turned out to have poor character. She is a woman of independent accomplishment, yet she makes sure to add flourish to her author bio with the carefully casual mention of her present husband, whose name she expects everyone to recognize. Is it strictly necessary to mention twice in the first several pages that you are a graduate of an Ivy League college? And then there's her sorry conclusion: "Now the most important thing about me is that I am old." There is much more that is important about Nora Ephron, particularly her loyal family, close friends and her talent. Many people appreciate her.
What has she learned from her experiences? That she has not forgotten the pain of betrayal by her second husband. That children suffer in divorce. That unfaithfulness is natural to the young. This at least was her experience. There is a glimmer of elegiac reflection in her last chapters, but somehow depth eludes her. Seeking a meaningful life would require her to veer away from what she is so good at, describing preparations for a Christmas dinner with madcap humor, or regaling us with how a restaurant meat loaf was named after her. She has a fine ear for anecdote and an inner true north for trifles. But compare a little known, not very prolific essayist, Julie Hecht. Julie Hecht also writes about quotidian subjects with humor, but she has a deeper underlying message - see my review of Do the Windows Open. Nora Ephron is all surface. This book is sure to be a "huge best seller", for Ms. Ephron is always finely attuned to the popular zeitgeist.
on November 14, 2010
Once again Nora Ephron gives us the chance to pretend we are her best friend and that's a great thing. Nora Ephron is one of the great essayists around. This book, like I Feel Bad About My Neck, is full of pithy observations about life at age 60 something in New York City. Ephron's merciless observations on growing older in the 21st century can't help but delight. (The way that Google, for example, has become the savior of aging dinner companions who can't remember the movie titles.)
There's an awful lot to laugh about in this book and as with her previous books, I loved every minute of it. But when it was done, I felt sad. Ephron has so much, but she seems depressed. She's wealthy and the excitment of living in NYC, while clearly dear to her, is not new. She's still on top of her game writing and directing movies, and yet there seems to be little that thrills her about that. (She barely mentions Julie & Julia.) Ephron badly misses her best friend Ruthie, who passed away and worries about her other friends. There is a strange essay about an annual Christmas dinner among friends where the hostess takes away Ephron's traditional assigned task of making dessert. The hostess's behavior is so odd that you can't help but wonder what else there is to the story--or what the hostess's reaction is going to be when she reads and extended chapter in a best selling book, about taking the job of pie maker away from Nora Ephron.
I couldn't put this book down, but it is very, very short and I finished it in a day. "I wish it were longer," is generally a great thing to say about a book but this book really should have been longer, 100% longer, to justify the price. Had it been a reasonable length, I would have given it five stars. If you love Nora Ephron, and I really do, keep that in mind.
on December 10, 2010
Here is a collection of lightweight essays that's good for an hour and a half train ride when you have not much better to read. Ms. Ephron is a highly accomplished screenwriter, director, and writer who is too self-deprecating about her accomplishments. Some of the essays are fun and frothy, others a bit depressing, but none very insightful or witty. One expects more from a woman of her talent and caliber.
on February 6, 2012
I have this book and Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About my Neck. They are both expertly written - pretty much a funny autobiography-type read. I will read both books at least twice a year. They are easy reads and offer a light, humerous mood to otherwise serious life. I bought copies of both books as gifts for all my friends, and will continue to do so. Makes a great hostess gift, too, with a box of tea and box of chocolate in a little gift bag. :-)