August 2, 2006

New Nora Ephron Essays Feel Like Old(er) Friends

badaboutneck.jpgCinecultist is decidedly outside of Nora Ephron's targeted demographic for her essays, but we love her anyhow. Her new collection, I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman details in the title essay her anxieties about pushing past 60 and other selections in the volume discuss parenting, her Upper West Side apartment and interning in JFK's White House press office. This is not the usual domain of the late '20s, Eee Vee-dwelling, singleton Cinecultist but Ephron knows how to make her maddeningly specific experience seem universal.

Just to make sure we are on the same page as to why CC would even be interested in this writing, Ephron is the main mama of the romantic comedy. When Harry Met Sally... is the Ur text of the '90s rom com, in our humble opinion. We initially got into Ephron's writing though through her novel Heartburn, a very thinly veiled autobiographical story about Ephron's second marriage. It features some hilarious New York neurotic girl plot points punctuated by recipes, including a peach pie which bakes up really well. The movie version stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and while it's not as good as the book, it's worth a rental.

Reading that book was a very special experience for CC, not unlike the feeling Ephron describes in the essay "On Rapture," which is in her new collection. "I've just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture—with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. i was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books I've loved."

There really is something to this idea that good writing (or good movies) can make you feel creatively alive and engaged. They make you want to sit down with pen and paper and scrawl out all of your deepest thoughts. A writer like Ephron (or Dorothy Parker or Jane Austen or Edith Wharton), makes writing seem like a natural extension of thought. The words on the page seem like the dialogue running through her brain and in the best moments their to-the-pointness is electrifying. This is a style that CC strives for and thus a new opportunity to read her efforts, even if they are outside of our own immediate experiences, is a treat.

For more thoughts of Ephron's new book, read Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times last weekend.

Posted by karen at August 2, 2006 10:35 AM