I have to confess that although I’ve seen her films and heard her name, Nora Ephron has until now flown relatively under the radar for me, which I’m sure is a ridiculous sentence seeing as she’s so well-known. However, this charming collection of her writings has well and truly converted me, and from one extreme to the other, she’s now become my new obsession (I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment).
The Most of Nora Ephron has it all; it covers her journalism days, as a young reporter in her early twenties (starting as a mail girl at Newsweek, because: ‘If you were a college graduate and you were a girl, they hired you as a mail girl. If you were a boy with exactly the same qualifications, they hired you as a reporter and sent you to a bureau somewhere in America,’) then takes you through her screenwriting career, her time as a blogger, and her final thoughts on life (which are gloriously funny as well as poignant). Nora Ephron died in 2012.
Also included is chapter one of Heartburn, the thinly disguised account of Nora’s second marriage to Carl Bernstein and its disintegration after she learned of his affair. Chapter one prompted me to buy the whole thing, which deserves a blog post of its own (to come!) I challenge you not to read the first chapter and long for the rest!
She is, of course, the woman behind classics such as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in the Seattle, the first of which is included (in part) in this collection, along with an afterword in which Ephron adds her own thoughts on the film and its major issue: ‘The truth is that men don’t want to be friends with women. Men know they don’t understand women, and they don’t much care…Women, on the other hand, are dying to be friends with men…They think if they could just understand men, they could do something. Women are always trying to do something.’ At no point does Ephron try to hide her feelings; she tells it like it is, wittily, honestly and directly. That is what makes her so great. She also gives fascinating insights into the practical, technical aspects of writing a script: ‘…and sometimes you get a movie that you’re happy with. It’s my experience that this happens very rarely.’
She doesn’t shy away from politics either – a standout essay for me is her ‘Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions’ (written in 2008) in which she decides to aim higher: to resolve to do things which are completely out of reach. Number one is to end the war in Iraq (‘I’ve wanted to do this for a long time’) and number 8 is to start a universal health program run by Oprah Winfrey. She is hilarious yet bang on the mark – in order to get George Bush behind the threat of global warning, Ephron planned to ‘slip into the White House in the dead of night, tie the president naked to a bedpost and force him to watch footage of the melting polar ice cap until he concedes.’
Towards the end of the collection, Ephron writes warmly and truthfully about the little irritations of life – from a messy purse (‘I Hate My Purse’) to the things she won’t miss (‘washing my hair, bras, mammograms, panels on ‘Women in Film.) This is a wonderful collection which you can dip in and out of, and tells the remarkable story of a truly incredible woman (along with several of her contemporaries: there are chapters on Dorothy Schiff, Dorothy Parker and Helen Gurley Brown to name but a few). A joy from start to finish.