This is a delightful book that I only came across after it was recommended by Shelagh Fogarty on Twitter.
It’s short, and full (mainly) of short anecdotes and reflections on events in the late Nora Ephron’s life. Sometimes, these take the form of full-on autobiographical anecdotes, such as her story of how she got into journalism. Others are just straight-out opinions, such as her six stages of her relationship with email. All are joyously funny; some are also quite touching. The whole gives a real sense of Ephron as a person. And the quality of the writing throughout is just sublime.
Some reviewers have complained about a degree of “bitchiness” in this book – and it’s true to say that Ephron’s opinions aren’t universally positive about everything. But I read these opinions as honestly held, and found them endearing.
There are glorious descriptions of some of Ephron’s reactions to the absurdity of celebrity, and the challenges of ageing: from how she reacts to finding a dish named after her in a restaurant, to coping with an inability to remember names.
There’s a chapter in this book that deals with Ephron’s “flops”: her films and plays that have failed to become financial successes. She describes with honesty how this feels, how it can never quite be forgotten, and how the failures stayed with her far longer than the successes. I’m someone who generally advocates embracing and learning from failure, and this chapter really made me view this in a different way. In a creative context, “success” and “failure” are difficult to define: Ephron considers her finest play to be one that commercially flopped. How can one learn from failure when, in the liberal arts, failure is very subjective? I know that’s probably obvious to most people, but this chapter really made me consider this in some depth.
I know that some have been irritated by the brevity of this book. It is very short. Yet I find it difficult to criticise something just because it’s brief: this is brief but excellent, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.