We all know Nora Ephron from beloved movies like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but she is arguably at her best when she puts her thoughts and opinions on the page in one of her tart and clever essays. In her last book, she bemoaned the aging process and how we never appreciate what we have until it’s gone (in that case, it was the state of her neck). In I REMEMBER NOTHING, the enemy is also time --- time and one’s faulty memory.
In the eponymous essay, Ephron relates the instance when she did not recognize a woman coming towards her, arms outstretched for a hug, only to realize that this lady was her sister. It gets worse. It wasn’t some random meeting. She had arranged to get together with her at that appointed spot. But as Ephron relates, “All this makes me feel sad, and wistful, but mostly it makes me feel old. I have many symptoms of old age, aside from the physical. I occasionally repeat myself. I use the expression, ‘When I was young,’ Often I don’t get the joke although I pretend I do. If I go to see a play or a movie for a second time, it’s as if I didn’t see it at all the first time, even if the first time was just recently. I have no idea who anyone in People magazine is.”
Ephron has racked up so many truly memorable moments in her life. If only she could remember them! She once met Eleanor Roosevelt, but can’t recall anything about the meeting, although she can somewhat picture the drapes at Hyde Park. She was at the Ed Sullivan Theater the night the Beatles played for the first time in America, but all she can remember is how obnoxious the screaming fans were. She attended the March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War, but only recalls a brief rendezvous she had the same weekend. What a fascinating life Ephron has led. Too bad she can’t remember it to save her life.
One of the meatiest essays in this collection is “Journalism: A Love Story,” which details the fast-paced world of news reporting Ephron found herself in when she arrived in New York City in 1962. Not only do we get a glimpse of her early beginnings, her career mirrors the advent of print journalism at that time. Hectic days and nights spent on the floors of Newsweek and The New York Post are terrific grist for hardcore news junkies as well as those who only have a passing interest in mainstream media. Readers get an insider’s view of just how hard it was to be a woman in journalism at that time: “I loved the Post. Of course, it was a zoo. The editor was a sexual predator. The managing editor was a lunatic. Sometimes it seemed that half the staff was drunk. But I loved my job. In my first year there, I learned how to write, which I barely knew when I began.”
Another essay recounts a legend that loomed large in the Ephron household: the day her mother kicked famed New Yorker reporter Lillian Ross out of their house. For years, she had heard the story told and retold, and given the fact that both her parents were writers with a flair for the dramatic, she always wondered if it was true. Years later, a working writer herself, Ephron gets her answer in the essay’s amusing denouement.
Once again, Ephron has proffered a delightfully succinct and completely hilarious and sometimes poignant collection of essays sure to delight her legions of loyal fans, as well as appeal to those who have never had the pleasure of laughing out loud to her bemusements before. A terrific holiday gift for any smart woman, or a fun palette cleanser for your book club, I REMEMBER NOTHING is sure to amuse readers with its relatable charm and wit.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on November 9, 2010