In every obituary, article or essay that I read about Nora Ephron last week, many of her closest friends and associates spoke highly of her as a writer, director and a friend, but all of them spoke with great regard for her work as an essayist. So, of course, I immediately got my hands on a couple of her collections such as Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble. I think the adjective most used for her essays was “tart,” but to me they’re so much more than that. She comes across as a very funny Joan Didion, zeroing in on her targets with a sharpness and ease that blew me away. They’re caustic, but self-effacing at the same time. Read, for instance, “A Star is Born” from Crazy Salad in which she is painfully honest about her conflicting feelings when she loses out on a TV anchor job or her essay about People magazine which feels incredibly prescient. One wonders what she thought of those magazines we have today that seem to exist solely to show to two “celebrities” wearing the same outfit.
I suppose a lot of people got out their DVD’s of Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally last week and enjoyed them once again. Never having seen either of them (yet), I can’t testify to their charms. Though I was fascinated with the style of Ephron’s novel Heartburn when I read it (probably twenty years ago and I believe it’s time for a rereading), and I loved Silkwood, I didn’t see any of her movies again until Bewitched (the less said the better) and Julie and Julia which, if you ask me, would have been perfect if Ephron had excised anything to do with Julie. I don’t know what the hell I was doing during late 2002 and early 2003, but somehow I managed to miss Imaginary Friends, a Broadway musical with a book by Ephron in which Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy meet in hell. I’ve heard it didn’t quite work, but still – a musical about Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy in hell! All those great ideas about where fiction ends and fact begins (or is it the other way around?) years before A Million Little Pieces was even a gleam in Oprah’s eye. But at least I have those essays. Reading them is like sharing an intimate table for two and learning about writing from my imaginary friend Nora Ephron.