Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Staff Picks! I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron may have forgotten what happened when she met Eleanor Roosevelt, but fortunately she certainly has vivid memory of other events in her life. Ephron, in case you haven't heard, is a journalist, director and screenwriter (the beloved When Harry Met Sally and the more recent Julie and Julia). Her most recent gig is blogger for the Huffington Post and New York Times and, not surprisingly, I Remember Nothing feels like a chatty series of blog posts.

Ephron was born to a degree of privilege and fame. Both parents were screenwriters and she began her life mixing with the literary and the famous. This, however, is not to take away from a lifetime of hard work and talent. As she approaches the age of 70 she is able to reflect on society and her life experiences (the ones she can still remember) with a degree of comfort and easy self-deprecation. Reading her book is like listening to a fascinating friend over coffee. Just as you're feeling comfortable with her lists of foibles and recipes, you are reminded that her stories include the likes of Lillian Helman and Carl Bernstein.

Names and faces might elude her, yet she can relate stories from her childhood and early career that paint a vivid picture. The chapter "Journalism: a love story" is particularly fascinating. You imagine that it is evocative of working in the field as a woman in the 1960s. It has a Mad Men kind of feel to it. She rose from a mail girl, to a researcher then finally to an honest to goodness writer despite the fact that women were rarely if ever promoted.

She both bemoans and embraces technological change. Here is her Six Stages of Email, included in the book, and published previously in New York Times. It begins as a new toy, the saviour of letter writing and grows to a drowning obligation that can't be mastered. She identifies Google as a tool to assist with seniors' moments and is a self-proclaimed online Scrabble addict.

I Remember Nothing is a blend of the funny and the serious. She reflects on her mother's alcoholism and her very famous divorce. Towards the end she faces our ultimate destination with a bittersweet list of things she will miss and not miss when she is gone. She will miss her kids, husband and waffles. She will not miss taking off makeup. These two simple lists may seem at first to be filler, but in reality leave you with a slightly uncomfortable feeling of ending and mortality.

As I was reading The Fran Lebowitz Reader came to mind. "The Fran Lebowitz Reader brings together in one volume, with a new preface, two bestsellers, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies; by an "important humorist in the classic tradition" (The New York Times Book Review) who is "the natural successor to Dorothy Parker" (British Vogue). In "elegant, finely honed prose" (The Washington Post Book World), Lebowitz limns the vicissitudes of contemporary urban life—its fads, trends, crazes, morals, and fashions. By turns ironic, facetious, deadpan, sarcastic, wry, wisecracking, and waggish, she is always wickedly entertaining." publisher

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