'I Remember Nothing': Nora Ephron on aging, forgetting and an excess of Pellegrino
Nora Ephron's new essay collection, "I Remember Nothing," riffs on aging, forgetting and the down side of having a restaurant entree named after you. Ephron appears Thursday, Nov. 18, at Town Hall Seattle.
Special to The Seattle Times
Nora EphronThe author of "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" will appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle, $15 (206-621-2230 or www.lectures.org), sponsored by Seattle Arts & Lectures; and at 6:30 p.m. next Friday, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park, free (206-366-3333 or www.thirdplacebooks.com).
Nora Ephron is, in essence, one of the original bloggers — and if everyone could write like her, what a lovely place the Internet would be. Many of the essays in her new and all-too-brief collection, "I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections" (Knopf, 137 pp., $22.95), originally appeared online at the Huffington Post, where she's found a home for her highly personal and often very funny musings.
But she's been writing like this for decades, beginning as a young journalist in the '70s (with essays collected in "Scribble Scribble" and "Crazy Salad"): telling stories that were, more often than not, ultimately about herself, and doing so with such warmth, wit and skill that they became universal. You want to know what Ephron thinks; you want to imagine what fun it would be to sit and kvetch with her.
As she approaches 70 — aging is a theme of this collection — Ephron's still an oversharer; this is, after all, a woman who turned her wrenching '80s divorce into a hit comic novel ("Heartburn") in which the heroine notes that her cheating husband "is capable of having sex with a Venetian blind." And she lives in a rarefied New York world where problems aren't exactly universal: the frustration, for example, of a waiter pushing too much Pellegrino on your table-of-four, or of learning that the dish named for you in a chic Manhattan restaurant has been taken off the menu. (This very funny essay, "My Life as a Meat Loaf," inspired a new life wish for me and perhaps you, too: someday, somewhere, I want a menu item named for me.)
But, as she did a few years back with "I Feel Bad About My Neck," Ephron brings all of us along for the ride. In the moving essay "The Legend," Ephron eloquently recounts the pain of being the child of an alcoholic — and the power of storytelling, as she learns that a family legend about her mother turns out to be true. A more lighthearted piece has Ephron pondering a brief, heady period in her life in which she thought she might inherit a great deal of money (she didn't, and that's why she wrote "When Harry Met Sally ... "); another vividly recreates the old days of Newsweek and the New York Post in "Journalism: A Love Story."
In "The D Word" Ephron muses on her famous divorce (though she's now happily remarried); when you've split from someone with whom you've had children, she writes, "divorce defines everything; it's the lurking fact, a slice of anger in the pie of your brain." And though she remembers the pain of her divorce vividly, she readily concedes that other life passages are harder to recall. The book's title essay cheerfully lists numerous people and events Ephron encountered but cannot remember: among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Ethel Merman, Cary Grant, the March on Washington, the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
"I was not at Woodstock," she writes, "but I might as well have been because I wouldn't remember it anyway."
And she concludes with a list of things she'll miss; among them her family, spring, fall, reading in bed, twinkle lights and pie. If this is Nora Ephron's last word, it's a stylish one — but here's hoping she's got a few more up her cashmere sleeve.
Moira Macdonald is the movie critic for The Seattle Times.