154 of 194 people found the following review helpful
Attuned to the Popular Zeitgeist,
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This review is from: I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 9, 2010, 4:46:40 AM PST
Samuel 333 says:
And Ms. Pollock's claim to fame is? It must be satisfying, or perhaps I should say self-satisfying, to sit back and criticize an accomplished writer using stilted prose to highlight her own superficial wit, glibness and quick quips. Boring!
Posted on Nov 9, 2010, 6:16:25 AM PST
Frida Kahlo says:
Thank you for your thoughtful review of this book. I heard an interview with her in NPR this morning and I couldn't help but wanting to know more about the author and about the book. I will give it a try and read it, as I love the subject of growing old and remembering (or not) the past. I wil, however, not expect to find the meaning of life in her memoirs. Thanks for the warning :)
Posted on Nov 9, 2010, 8:44:52 AM PST
I agree with Frida Kahlo, as I too heard the interview on NPR...Frida's comments are my exact thoughts....although I have to add that Ms. Pollock sounds simply JEALOUS
Posted on Nov 9, 2010, 10:58:16 AM PST
E. K. Johnson says:
I respect your opinion (Ms. Pollack) and do find many memoir-type books today solipsistic and worthless. However, I an anxious to read the book just for the reasons you did not like it. As a Women's Studies professor, I like to hear about women's contradictions, such as the one you mention about Ephron marrying successful writers despite her own abilities and independence. Re: the reflections on divorce, again, I find that kind of writing honest and endearing. Just because you are a feminist doesn't mean you aren't interpellated by the culture in which you live. It seems as if women memoirists, more often than not, can look at life's importance as the journey and not the destination.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010, 9:04:04 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 17, 2010, 10:31:26 PM PST]
Posted on Nov 11, 2010, 4:11:35 AM PST
K. Campbell says:
Thank you for your review. I wish Julie Hecht was more prolific too.
Posted on Nov 15, 2010, 7:49:59 PM PST
I know Nora Ephron's writing well, I've been a fan for decades. She and I have grown up together, cried together, gotten divorced and remarried together and laughed together. Finding even a kernel of new writing from her is like bumping into an old friend. I think perhaps Ms. Pollock has confused Nora Ephron's intent to sell books and entertain her audience with someone else.... not sure who. When I buy a book by Ms. Ephron I know what I'm getting, it's what I want and I love the way she says it. I've found that she and I are similar in many ways and I'm sure that the rest of her book buying public feels the same. I want to listen to my dear old friend before I fall asleep some nights and sometimes we have a chat in the afternoon or over lunch (I imagine). Oh, and guess what else? I dumped my first husband during the "early feminist movement" too! I also lived in New York City, climbed the ladder, became of woman with power, worked in the media and had a well lived life. Life has hard lessons. I think we all know that, have by our age lived that. Why waste time talking about the obvious. Talk about the stories that have carried us from then to now. That's the best part of Nora Ephron's writing...... the telling of the story. That's what makes her great and her books worth waiting for.
Also, Ms. Pollock, lose the Thesaurus. Just write.
Posted on Nov 18, 2010, 12:54:23 PM PST
It's not important to you that she's old but it's very important to her. You have to understand it.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010, 9:05:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 1, 2011, 7:47:58 PM PST
Eileen Pollock says:
To J. Browne-Upchurch: I respect your opinion, but I still prefer "jettisoned" to "dumped". I'm baroque, and you are modernist. Nora is your friend, but Julie Hecht is mine, my literary soulmate.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2010, 3:30:15 PM PST
To Eileen Pollock
I like your review of this book. When I read book reviews I want to find all sorts of opinions. I hate it when other commentators "demolish" a review because it does not espouse their own opinion. And this place has become so vile towards reviewers, that I am not sure I will keep visiting Amazon and buying books here anymore.
Come on people, a little civility...