Category Archives: Nora Ephron

Wallflower at the Orgy – Nora Ephron

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?

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Filed under Nora Ephron, Review, Transworld Publishing

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

I have always been rather a fan of Nora Ephron’s films in the past, they aren’t my all time favourites, though Julie & Julia could one day end up there, but I have enjoyed them enough that myself and a colleague where I used to work would have ‘Ephron moments’ you know when life is a little bit bittersweet and you still have to laugh about it. In fact it was this former colleague, and also something I saw on Justine Picardie’s blog some time ago that brought Ephron’s book to my attention, and when I saw it in the library a few weeks ago I had to pick it up.

‘Heartburn’ is the tale of Rachel Samstat a journalist who has somehow become a name in cookery writing, which is why there are a fair few recipes spread out throughout the book. As we meet her she has not long discovered that her husband Mark has been having an affair with Thelma Rice, whilst Rachel herself is heavily pregnant. What’s worse is that this doesn’t seem to be a small bout of infidelity (can we really even forgive those?) but a relationship that has been going on for some time and doesn’t look like either participant wants to give up. What follows is an incredibly vivid, occasionally incredibly funny and also incredibly emotionally raw, account of a woman coming to terms with her second unfaithful husband. At least this time, Rachel thinks, it isn’t with one of her friends like the husband before.

I thought this book was brilliant and very clever. It could easily have become a very bitter tale, and in some parts there is rage and hurt, which simply slagged off men (which it sometimes does, though it also looks at women’s faults too) and became a rather torturous read. Instead, whilst very much looking at the emotional side of it all and indeed the practicalities of the situation Ephron adds some humour. Even when the worst things happen to us we do still laugh at the most random of things, there is that saying ‘if you didn’t laugh you’d cry’ and Ephron clearly has this intention with this novel. She also introduces other couples and characters into the mix that add to the laughter, yet have their own tragedy such as Rachel’s mother’s madness, her father’s marriages after and so on.  

Many people say that ‘Heartburn’ is actually a fictionalised version of Norah Ephron’s marriage breakdown and divorce. Not knowing Ephron personally, sadly, I couldn’t comment on that, however in her own introduction – which makes great reading afterwards – Norah hints it may be ‘thinly disguised’ fiction. Regardless it’s a brilliant book. Because the author has been there and pretty much puts her heart and soul laid bare into the pages it feels real, we have all at some point felt some of these emotions; so we can empathise and have more of an involvement, understanding and reaction to the book.

A book that will: strike a chord regardless if you are male or female (I get the feeling this is aimed very much at women but I think men would like it too) it will also make you laugh out loud. 8.5/10

I can’t currently think of any books that I could pair this with so I haven’t done so. Has anyone else read this and could share some books that other people might like too and of course what you yourself thought of ‘Heartburn’? Has anyone seen the film and what did you think? I have just ordered it on LoveFilm – thrilled to see Meryl Streep plays Rachel!

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Filed under Nora Ephron, Review, Virago Books