The Most of Nora Ephron

By Nora Ephron

(Knopf, $35, 576 pages)

Who is this author?

She was a journalist, a novelist, a memoirist, a screenwriter, a playwright, a director and the kind of writer whose fans adored her. Nora Ephron, the daughter of screenwriters and the sister of successful authors Delia, Amy and Hallie Ephron, had a remarkable talent for connecting with people. She chronicled her ill-fated marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein in “Heartburn,” which also popularized the idea of adding recipes to novels. She wrote lovingly of her later marriage to journalist Nick Pileggi. She was one of the original practitioners of “the New Journalism” but she never forgot the old secrets of good storytelling. Her screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally” got her an Oscar nomination, as did the ones for “Silkwood” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” which she directed. She also wrote and directed the hit films “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.”  The list goes on.

What is this book about?

Nora Ephron died last year, a sad passing that spurred countless heartfelt appreciations of her life and work by other writers. But her own words say it best, and this nearly 600-page compendium has the best of her brilliant, trenchant and very funny observations on life from the perspective of a clever woman who always seemed like a personal friend to her readers. She wrote about loving, writing, cooking, being a woman, being flat-chested, being full-hearted, aging and dying. Women loved reading her, and so did men. Here, in one volume, you will find pieces you may remember and others you missed. It’s almost –but of course not quite – like having her back.

Why you’ll like it:

You can tell from what I have written above that I was a serious fan of Nora Ephron and why I think you will like this book.  Here, from its introduction by her longtime editor and friend, Robert Gottleib, are more reasons to read it.

“The reaction to her death was an outpouring of disbelief and grief. Before the publication of her two final collections—I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing—she was, of course, admired and enjoyed for both her writing and her movies, but the readership of these last books seemed to me to be on another level. It was personal. Her readers not only felt that they knew her but that she knew them. Obviously, not all the people—more than a million of them!—who bought Neck were women who identified with her or sensed her identification with them, but certainly many of them were. She had become a model, an ideal, or at the very least, an example—she was telling them things about herself that were also about them, and giving them permission to think these things and feel these things. And she was also telling them what to look out for, what lay ahead. Her honesty and directness, and her unerring prescience, had made her a figure—someone whose influence and authority transcended her individual achievements, extraordinary as they were.”

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: “This posthumous collection celebrates Ephron’s talent for turning her experiences into material, no matter the medium. Organized by occupation (“The Journalist,” “The Advocate,” “The Foodie,” “The Blogger,” and others), the volume contains numerous classics: her novel Heartburn; the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally; and wry essays on aging that made her collections, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing, bestsellers. Ephron’s last work, Lucky Guy, a play about the career of New York tabloid journalist Mike McAlary, is published here for the first time. The book’s most delicious offering is Ephron’s magazine journalism from the 1970s, with razor-sharp profiles of figures such as Helen Gurley Brown, Dorothy Schiff, and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and keenly intelligent reportage on subjects that include the 1971 National Women’s Political Caucus and the 1973 Pillsbury Bake-off competition. From Ephron’s days as a reporter at Newsweek in the 1960s to blogging for the Huffington Post in the 2000s, the book documents the changing culture of the New York media world. “Everything is copy,” Ephron’s mother always said. This collection fulfills that motto with aplomb, and will likely serve as a perfect holiday gift for Ephron fans.”

“Representing 40-plus years of work, this volume illustrates not only Ephron’s dynamic writing career as a journalist-turned-novelist-turned-filmmaker but also her incredible wit. Whether Ephron is writing about politics or purses, sexism or soufflé, her appeal is her intelligent, incisive sense of humor. This is also part of what makes her such an icon . . . for America. Women may idolize her—she is the major inspiration for funny girl Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO hit Girls—but through her writing and films, she has changed the actual timbre of American humor . . . Gottlieb manages to pack this almost 600-page anthology with Ephron’s most timeless pieces. Since we will never have enough of Nora Ephron, the most will have to do,” says Library Journal in a starred review.

“This hugely entertaining collection includes classics like Ephron’s novel Heartburn and her screenplay for When Harry Met Sally . . ., as well as columns, blog posts, and her final play, Lucky Guy . . . Many people already know how Ephron felt about her neck (bad) and what she’d miss when she died (bacon). But while these gems are included here, they’re offset by the ruthless young Ephron, who skewered journalistic ethics at The New York Times and made Gloria Steinem and Helen Gurley Brown cry during interviews. Tracing her evolution from these hard-nosed early pieces to the later, vulnerable essays on aging makes this book even more moving . . . What made Ephron great was that she took the very things seriously that others dismissed as frivolous, Cosmopolitan, Teflon, breast size, and, most of all, herself,”  says Entertainment Weekly

Kirkus Reviews says in a starred review: “A thick collection of writings by the iconic Ephron  a year after her much-mourned death. …The remainder of the anthology consists of much briefer entries across an impressively diverse set of topics. The final two entries are two lists, “What I Won’t Miss” (dry skin, my closet, Fox, the collapse of the dollar) and “What I Will Miss,” which unsurprisingly mentions her children, her third (and final) husband and walking in the park. The very last item on the list is “Pie.” Reading nearly 600 pages of Ephron in one volume is a joy, not only due to the range of her interests, her capacious mind, her mixture of humor and satire and self-deprecation, but also her skill as a stylist. Few writers of Ephron’s range and output have written so few clunky sentences or so many memorable ones. … Ephron might be best remembered, however, for her searing insights into the craft of journalism and the complications of feminism. A delightful collection from a unique, significant American writer.

Says Booklist: “….No matter how versed in Ephron’s cherished work a reader may be, she or he will be dazzled and touched anew by this life-spanning, life-embracing collection that so richly showcases her clarity, brio, and candor. Mining her own intriguing life in Beverly Hills and New York, Ephron wrote about what it means to be female, from her hilarious “A Few Words about Breasts” in 1972 to her touched-a-nerve laments about marriage, motherhood, age, and persistent sexism. A canny interpreter of the zeitgeist, Ephron threshed topics social, cultural, and political, and shared her passion for food. Nearly 80 stellar essays are accompanied by Ephron’s novel, Heartburn; her play, Lucky Guy, and her acclaimed, oft-quoted screenplay for When Harry Met Sally. A tonic and essential celebration of a scintillating and mighty writer. …Ephron’s bereft readership will embrace this robust, strongly promoted tribute to her incandescent talent and intensely creative life.

When is it available?

Nora’s gone, but her words live on in this book, now at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Mark Twain branch.

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

Comments are closed.