Since the news of her death, I’ve become aware that many people know Nora Ephron as the amazing director and writer that she is but are unaware of her body of literary work. She’s written some poignant, touching and flat out hilarious books that have shaped countless writers with their wit and winking cynicism. (Myself, most definitely.) Nora Ephron was one of my heroes. I don’t want to sit here and rehash her many, many film and directing credits, because they are so vast and so incredibly impressive and everyone is doing it, so instead (as I am the book nerd), I want to tell you about her books.
Should you be among those unfamiliar with her books, don’t fret! I put together a list of my favorites because it’s the best way I can think of to pay tribute to such a talented woman.
Crazy Salad. This book is so much fun and has meant so much to me, I tend to oversell its virtues. I won’t apologize for it! Ephron takes a hard, hilarious, acerbic look at American women (and men) and the generation that shaped them. Originally published in the ’70s, it holds up to this very day and it’ll have you laughing out loud one minute and thinking hard about her point of view, and your own, the next.
Heartburn. Rachel Samstat writes cookbooks for a living and will gladly offer you cooking advice. She’s pregnant when she finds out her husband, Mark, is cheating on her, and here we chronicle the anguishing and hilarious breakup of “the perfect marriage”. Like most of her work, Ephron pulled from her own experience, a broken marriage to Carl Bernstein, to write this. His character was so loosely fictionalized that he threatened her with legal action — which, in itself, was kind of funny.
I Feel Bad About My Neck. I’ll be honest here: my mother loved this book much more than I did. Being a young twenty-something when it came out, it didn’t exactly speak to me, but I’m so glad I read it. There will be a time, in that not terribly far future, that I’ll need Nora Ephron’s uniquely dry and poignant sense of humor to get me through, and this will do it. Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age. Utterly courageous, uproariously funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a scrumptious, irresistible treat of a book, full of truths, laugh out loud moments that will appeal to readers of all ages.
I Remember Nothing. Read this, please. Nothing rings quite so true, so very Ephron-esque, as this book. It’s almost painfully sincere, but everything you’ve come to know and love about her as a writer and so much more. I’m not equipped with the talent to write about how much I love this and how much I’ve learned from it, so do yourself a favor and find out for yourself.
Wallflower at the Orgy. Honestly, the Amazon blurb says it best here: “From her Academy Award—nominated screenplays to her bestselling fiction and essays, Nora Ephron is one of America’s most gifted, prolific, and versatile writers. In this classic collection of magazine articles, Ephron does what she does best: embrace American culture with love, cynicism, and unmatched wit. From tracking down the beginnings of the self-help movement to dressing down the fashion world’s most powerful publication to capturing a glimpse of a legendary movie in the making, these timeless pieces tap into our enduring obsessions with celebrity, food, romance, clothes, entertainment, and sex. Whether casting her ingenious eye on renowned director Mike Nichols, Cosmopolitan magazine founder Helen Gurley Brown — or herself, as she chronicles her own beauty makeover — Ephron deftly weaves her journalistic skill with the intimate style of an essayist and the incomparable talent of a great storyteller.”
Please, do yourself a favor and get familiar with these books. Laugh and enjoy reading them and think of Nora Ephron. This is a quote from I Feel Bad About My Neck that’s always stuck with me:
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”