One of the things I do like about my local library is that they have a huge set of shelves that greet you when you walk in; in fact you almost walk into them because they are so in your face when you arrive. It was on these shelves that I spotted Nora Ephron’s ‘Wallflower at the Orgy’ which grabbed my attention from the title and the image that it threw in my head. Pulling it off the shelf I saw that it was a collection of her early essays and after reading and thoroughly enjoying ‘Heartburn’ earlier in the year and so I decided to give this a go.
Nora Ephron is known around the world for her script writing and films such as ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘Julie & Julia’. I had no idea that she had started her career as a journalist. From the title you might be expecting ‘Wallflower at the Orgy’ to be Nora Ephron writing about sex, which I could imagine would be hilarious and brilliant; however it’s not the case. This collection was actually published back in 1970 and was Nora Ephron’s first collection of early journalism and some of the articles she had written in various magazines.
In this collection we get an insight into what is expected and what women want in the late 1960’s which makes for rather interesting reading. Ephron herself worked for Cosmopolitan as a freelance writer and so is writing ‘current women’s pieces’ (such as a hilarious make over that Ephron herself endures in a very funny essay) and meeting with those ‘current women’ including the founder of Cosmopolitan, one of the most powerful women at the time, Helen Gurley Brown who often finds herself in tears.
The novel also deals with journalism at the time, I was expecting Ephron’s 1970’s world of journalism to be very different from mine yet actually its not, in fact I would say that without such joys as the worldwide web, ‘google’ and the like journalists had to work a lot harder. Ephron starts the book telling how she was taught to write minimally and yet write around a person rather than simply repeat exactly what your interviewee tells you which a lot of modern journalists could do with learning. We get lovely Ephron features on clothing, self help, cooking, visiting movie sets (for Catch 22) and also a horrendously brilliant sounding gossip magazine called Women’s Wear Daily which is still running.
The book lover in my really honed in on the sections where Ephron discusses books. She had me debating actually picking up Ayn Rand’s works as she discusses ‘The Fountainhead’, her thoughts on ‘Love Story’ by Erich Segal, which became a cult classic and I had never heard of so may have to look up, and a wonderful piece on Jacqueline Susann who wrote ‘Valley of the Dolls’ which has made me want to run off and read that now.
It’s a real mixture of essays which have one common thread which is Ephron’s wonderful narrative which is filled with honesty and also humour. There’s a knowingness which rather than making her sound a little bit smug and patronising actually makes you feel like when you have come to the end of each article you have just had a good natter with one of your friends. It’s not ‘Heartburn’ it’s something rather different and yet equally enjoyable, a book you can dip in and out of at your leisure. 7.5/10
This collection was from the library, I think it’s only out in actual shops in America though you can get it on a certain bookselling website.
Have any of you read any of Nora Ephron’s other collections? I have spotted there is a new one coming in 2011 which I am quite excited about. Have any of you read Erich Segal’s ‘Love Story’ and what did you think of it? Do you think I would like Jacqueline Susann’s ‘Valley of the Dolls’ as much as I now think I might?