I feel bad about Nora.

Nora Ephron died today. I didn’t even know she was sick. I guess this is terrible news, but not — Ephron got her threescore and ten, plus one (that means she was 71, for those of you who don’t speak Bible), and to be frank, she wasn’t writing as well as she once did, although Ephron on a bad day was better than most people on their very very best.

My bestie Deb once wrote a column that named Ephron as her role model, in the same way that Ephron named Dorothy Parker as her own. As it turned out, we both — Deb and I — had our chance to sit at her feet, however briefly, and warm ourselves in her glow.

I’ve said here before that Ephron wrote great essays as a young woman, stuff that I read and reread and re-reread, internalizing them and turning her phrases over and over, secreting my own nacre over them until they became stepping stones to my own voice as a writer. I’m serious: I’m the writer I am in part because Nora Ephron was the writer she was, not the greatest ever, but a voice I envied and aped — casual, funny, smart, confessional. I wanted to be her, and while I couldn’t be the 1941-born Jewish daughter of screenwriter/playwrights in Los Angeles, imitating her for a while helped me become the 1957-born Catholic daughter of a couple of ordinary parents, with whatever voice that became.

This stuff is important. I can’t quite explain why.

Her essays for Esquire and New York, compiled in “Crazy Salad” and “Scribble, Scribble” are what I’ll remember her for. Her essay on the development of the first vaginal deodorant was genius, as were the ones on the Pillsbury Bake-Off, consciousness-raising and working for the New York Post, among many others. That’s the Nora I wanted to be.

Later she made her way to Hollywood, and that’s what most of the obits I’ve seen so far have in the lead — her scripts for “Silkwood” and “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’ve Got Mail” and others. To be sure, she wrote some great movies, but her direction was always sort of meh and many of the films she’s best known for were likewise. She was always about making a living, and you make more money as a screenwriter and director than as a magazine essayist. But one thing that always struck me? How those early essays kept popping up in her later work. I watched “Julie & Julia” and caught many lines that I’d read decades previous in her pieces about cooking.

She came back to them, in an even lighter way. “I Feel Bad About My Neck” was a collection so slight it would blow away in a breeze, but it was still fun to read. (I think I did so, standing up, in a Border’s outlet.) It was her first collection in years, and if it wasn’t “Crazy Salad, Redux,” it was like sitting down with an old friend and discovering she still had it, that she could make jokes about lettuce and cookbooks and why dietary cholesterol has nothing to do with serum cholesterol.

She could be maddening; she moved in elite circles, and wrote about their “problems” in ways that suggested aggravated cluelessness. There was a piece about being a resident of the Apthorp, an upper west side apartment building that was rent-stabilized when Ephron moved in, in the 1970s, and eventually squeezed tenants like her out. I remember she said she had a five-bedroom — five bedrooms! — apartment for some ridiculous price, and oh what a tragedy it was to lose it. Cry me a river, etc. (A five-bedroom apartment in the Apthorp today? Nearly $15 million.)

But this is all water under the bridge now. Something you might not know about her: She had a listed phone number, and she answered her own phone. One year, Robert James Waller, the author of “The Bridges of Madison County,” was supposed to speak in Fort Wayne, and I planned to cover it. I reread Nora’s essay, “Mush,” about Rod McKuen, and then I called her and asked if she had any thoughts or advice or, y’know, what am I doing calling Nora Ephron? Mistake mistake mistakemistakemistake. She laughed and we chatted about Waller’s mush and its relation to McKuen’s mush, and she said I couldn’t quote her but that I should enjoy myself and write something good.

Waller cancelled, but it was hardly a wasted assignment. I talked to Nora.

Bloggage today? How about this? A jumping-off point for many things — not all things — Nora. And let’s leave it at that.

UPDATE: This is a really well-done remembrance, with the bonus of lots o’ links. And this.

Posted at 12:48 am in Current events, Media |

85 responses to “I feel bad about Nora.”

  1. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Was just scrolling through my Twitter feed. Many comments from people who knew her about what a fine person–not only smart and funny, but kind–Nora Ephron was.

    Also on Twitter tonight, much concern and lots of horrifying photos, including this one, of the fires in Colorado. Really terrible. Thirty-two thousand people have been evacuated from Colorado Springs, and more than 250 homes have been lost. Winds are at 65 mph tonight.

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  2. Dexter said on June 27, 2012 at 2:27 am

    I never totally immersed myself in Rod McKuen’s work; now I am wondering why N.E. called his work “mush”. When I read that, I instantly thought of a 1960’s-1970’s icon, Marshall McLuhan.
    I took a college course based on the philosophies and ideas of McLuhan, and a lot of it was way over my young head, and indeed seemed like mush.
    Here’s an example of his words:
    “Postindustrial man has a network identity, or a net-ID. The role is now a temporary shift of state produced by a combination of environmental factors, like in a neural network. This possibility has always been latent in the concept of role, but in the machine age this was perceived as a danger, while today it is simply a game – we no longer see shifting roles as dangerous and taboo and therefore theatrically compelling. Rather, we follow these shifts as if we were doing a puzzle or kibitzing a chess game. Yes, the medium is the message, but this does not mean and never meant that the content of the medium is a conscious reflection on itself. The medium is the message because it creates the audience most suited to it. Electronic media create an audience whose shifting moods are as impersonal as the weather.” Got it…yep. Uhh huh. Sure.

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  3. Sherri said on June 27, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Here’s some of what Ephron had to say about McKuen’s work (and Erich Segal’s):

    “Most important, both of them have hit on a formula so slick that it makes mere sentimentality have the force of emotion. Their work is instantly accessible and comprehensible; and when the reader is moved by it, he assumes that it must be art. As a result, Segal and McKuen, each of whom started out rather modest about his achievement, have become convinced that they must be doing something not just right but important.”

    The whole piece is much more interesting that than that. It’s titled Mush, and it’s included in “Wallflower at the Orgy.”

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  4. Deborah said on June 27, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I was a big Ephron fan. I think I’ve read everything she ever wrote. When a new book came out, I bought it immediately, I’m sorry to hear that there won’t be any more.

    We have cable in Santa Fe now so for the first time I have cable Internet instead of DSL. It’s exhausting but Little Bird and I have made a lot of progress unpacking. Just a bit more to do before I go back to Chicago Friday.

    edit: I forgot to mention that we drove past Colorado Springs Sunday in our Uhaul truck. The fire had started the night before and was up to about 2,000 acres at that point. You could clearly see it from Interstate 25.

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  5. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 7:00 am

    My friends and I always called Rod McKeun toilet paper poetry, like Jack Kerouac was gas station paper towell novelizing. Nora Ephron chose to trash an ex in public, which is a dogass move and deserves worse, and then she wrote the screenplay and got Jack Nicholson to play the bastard to the hilt. Way low.

    we drove past Colorado Springs Sunday in our Uhaul truck. The fire had started the night before and was up to about 2,000 acres at that point. You could clearly see it from Interstate 25.

    God has blessed them, Pastor Phelps.

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  6. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Winds are at 65 mph tonight.

    Witches on the road tonight.

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  7. nancy said on June 27, 2012 at 7:13 am

    When someone cheats on you when you’re pregnant, there is no move you can make against them that could be called dogass. That is all.

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  8. Suzanne said on June 27, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I loved “I feel bad about my neck” because, well, I do feel bad about my neck and all the other indignities of aging.

    Also, non-writer here, I didn’t even know she was married to Carl Bernstein. RIP, Nora. 71 is too young to go, and getting younger every year.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I thought “Heartburn” was hysterical, but I’ve never had an ex to worry about, although if my wife ever got into writing personal essays for publication, I’m sure I’d have occasion for repentance.

    Ephron took the New Journalism in a more sustainable direction than Gonzo was going; she domesticated it without resorting to domesticity. I think of Susan Orlean as one of her heirs, but Orlean isn’t quite as confessional, personal in an observatory sort of way. What made some of Ephron’s later work less “hefty” was, I think, her hesitation to embrace aging the way she dove into other experiences in her life, and connecting them to the lived general. But at her lightest he was still going deeper and truer than most of us in written expression. God be good to her, and this household will remember her again on Dec. 31 on our annual “When Harry Met Sally” viewing. Each time, it’s the interspersed vignettes that pull me in a little bit further.

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  10. basset said on June 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Never could get interested in Nora Ephron’s writing, too New York for me. Beautiful morning in Nashville, though, sixty degrees at sunrise but it’ll be close to a hundred before the day’s out.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Around here, many area farmers have gotten in a ridiculously early crop of wheat, which won’t compensate for the fact that it’s looking like the corn crop is a dead man walking. It’s the only green this side of the forest canopy, and well past the knee-high metric for July 4th, but if we go two more weeks without any rain, which is very likely looking at the forecasts, it’s not even going to make good silage.

    What is likely to happen is a throwback to the oldest set of legends and superstitions around farming, before large scale fertilization and well-tuned seed selection and so on: a stray thunderstorm, with a narrow path of rain laid down, could carve a swath of success in a narrow strip right between two other farmers who will lose their shirts this summer. All it would take at this point is one good rumble and downpour in the next two weeks, and even if it’s dry for weeks beyond it, late summer rains could end those crops that were blessed with a useable harvest . . . but the field just over the fencerow, without that one fifteen minute shower July 1st, will hit August looking like Joseph’s other dream of gaunt & deathly stalks and cattle.

    No matter how bad it gets, we’re not Colorado. Lord, have mercy. (But our local VFDs are preparing for grass fires in quantity right now.)

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  12. Dorothy said on June 27, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Jeff I was making dinner last night and had Channel 4 on – thought I heard some reference to the Red White & Boom event being altered somehow due to the dry conditions? Maybe I misunderstood.

    *Wildly, silently(because I’m at work) applauding Nancy’s comeback @7.*

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  13. Kim Ellis said on June 27, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I decided to reread some of Nora’s earlier works. It was sad to see that they were all in storage at the library. Not sure of the time frame, but I assume they hadn’t been checked out for a long time. Meanwhile, people are falling over themself to read “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

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  14. DellaDash said on June 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

    “I am currently boycotting so many television shows that I may not have time to boycott another.”

    Just a Nora quote I plucked out of The Daily Beast offering this morning.

    Unlike you, Nancy, I didn’t realize how much Nora Ephron had become a part of my inner life (at a subliminal level), until the the news alert chimed on my iPhone. Further kudos to her for keeping her battle with leukemia under wraps, unlike so many of her fellow celebrities.

    Prospero…shame on you! Your bitter stab is untimely, uncalled for, inappropriate and NOT appreciated.

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  15. Connie said on June 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

    My friend moved from Elkhart to Colorado Springs last year. Her Facebook postings about the fire are downright scary.

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  16. paddyo' said on June 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Once upon a time in the 1990s, when I was working for The Denver Post, my then-wife and I flirted with the idea of moving down to “The Springs.” I would work from The Post‘s Colorado Springs bureau, a handsome little second-floor office in a fine old downtown building, and I would commute up from our little dream house in an oakbrushy subdivision of five-acre plots that was just being developed down the back slope of Cheyenne Mountain (yeah, that Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD and the “Crystal Palace” on the tip of the Cold War military intelligence/space command spear), along the Route 115 “cutoff” to Canon City, across the road from Fort Carson’s outback.

    I’m glad we came to our senses and stayed put in Denver — not because that place we lusted for is on fire today, because it’s not. But it will be, one day, and probably soon. That’s the reality in what Colorado calls the red zone, the high-fire-danger area also known as the “urban-wildland interface.” It’s where sub- and exurban nature-seekers build right up against (or into) fire-dependent forests that weren’t allowed to burn naturally for most of the 20th century. Every summer now, these tinder-dry places are a tossed cigarette or a lightning bolt away from an inferno.

    Fact is, four of the top five Colorado counties with the highest percentage of residents living in the “red zone” are burning right now — and numero uno is El Paso County, which essentially is Colorado Springs, plus a few small ‘burbs. FORTY-FIVE percent of the people there live in the red zone. Boulder County (new fire there last night, and a really bad one a year ago) and Larimer County (the big fire burning now for nearly three weeks, 260 homes gone, second largest fire in state history) also are right up there.

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  17. coozledad said on June 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Kim Ellis:Speaking of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it seems to have offended Mitch Albom’s sensibilities. He ‘s got nothing to say about the shitty writing, of course, because pot, kettle.
    Mitch pretends to be upset because of the weird sex that doesn’t include a guy with a toupee getting blown because he sells books by the cartonload to people who have to be cleaned.
    Or maybe it’s because a non-Mitch book is mopping up sales in Mitch’s Books For Scooterjockeys niche.
    I think we all have an idea how Mitch would handle a mommyporn assignment, and it’s nothing to boast about.

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  18. adrianne said on June 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Six degrees of separation…my college pal had the condo next to Nora Ephron/Carl Bernstein in Washington, D.C. Of course, Bernstein immediately started major renovations on the place, which mainly consisted of pounding on my pal’s wall at odd hours. Said pal complained to management. Said pal began receiving threatening letters from Carl Bernstein. My reaction? Wow, you’re getting mail from Carl Bernstein!

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  19. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Nice, taking her word for it and her side, Nancy. Colorado Springs is God’s holy ground, right? Della, not sure what I did, I know it wasn’t bitter, but what am I apologizing for?

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  20. DellaDash said on June 27, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Because I’m fond of you, Pros, I accept your apology…even if you really don’t know what it’s for.

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  21. MarkH said on June 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

    paddy’o — nice succinct description of the unintended consequences of loving the mountain west to death. Added to those conditions you describe is what I mentioned the other day: beetle-killed swaths of the forests, just waiting for that lightning strike or neglected campfire. This may be just the beginning of the devastation around Ft. Collins if they can’t get a hand on it. Here in NW Wyoming we have been blessed with a decent winter and moderate spring rains, but there are now three fires going in the state and fire danger in the Yellowstone area is rated high. We lived here in ’88 (I know you covered the fires for one of the Denver papers), and don’t want to go through that again.

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  22. Julie Robinson said on June 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Pros, reread your #5. Amen Nance & Dorothy.

    Our daughter worked at a camp near Colorado Springs several years back, up in the mountains. The area has been kindling-dry for years now and there was a major forest fire that took out part of the camp last year. So I’m picturing the beauty of the area and weeping a little.

    A very bad part of me, however, hopes that the path the fire takes includes the Focus on the Family campus.

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  23. Charlotte said on June 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Thanks Nancy for the pointer to Ephron’s early essays — Merrill Markoe is also posting today that they were crucial for her when she started writing. I have some credit at Powells, time to go online. I’ve also been looking at Heartburn again, in part because I’m working on a nonfiction thing that may or may not have recipes, and she did it without breaking the narrative … but her movie work just makes me angry. If anyone is responsible for the cancer of the rom-com, it’s Ephron. And the unfairness with which she treated the Julie Powell character in Julie/Julia seemed like the sort of jealous direct hit from one generation to the one behind it that’s behind what? the current mania to kill social security and medicare? I’ll grant that Julie Powell could be sort of annoying — but as someone who followed her from the early days of the blog, she was not the spineless whiner that Ephron made her out to be.
    But 71, just a couple of years younger than my mother, and she did a lot of work, and made a good living, and I’m sure her sisters and family are bereft. RIP.

    Speaking of the dead — did you all see this piece about the TSA in Indianapolis opening and spilling the ashes of this guy’s dead grandfather? And laughing? http://www.theindychannel.com/news/31224633/detail.html
    When I had to take my brother’s ashes home to Chicago, that was my biggest fear. The Bozeman TSA are ridiculous –they’ve been told they’re single-handedly defending the Canadian border (which is 300 miles north). The mortuary gave me some official paperwork, and I took a lot of drugs, and they were actually not assholes — but if they had been, I’d still be in jail.

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  24. Julie Robinson said on June 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Charlotte, your perspective on Julie Powell from reading her blog is completely different than mine from reading her book. In the book she came across as an immature whiner, and I almost had to be dragged to see the movie. In the end I went because of Meryl Streep, and because two friends named Julie and Julia invited me. But I felt her character was MUCH more sympathetic/likeable in the movie than in the book.

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Julie — you should try reading “Cleaving.” I read it, with increasing sorrow & horror, and the sort of fascination one has driving past a car wreck attended by five cops and a half-dozen EMS. Powell is chopping her life down to fillets, right in front of you, and then at the end roasts herself with a thick coating of too-sweet, heavily seasoned barbecue sauce. It’s the darndest book, because at the end, I felt like I had to admit it was well written, I just felt awful for her, and twice as awful for her husband.

    And a fire hitting FotF would largely char empty offices, so don’t feel too bad. In fact, they’d probably be benefited by the insurance settlement and the chance to relocate and reboot, so you might want to hope for the opposite.

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  26. alex said on June 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I can’t say that I was a particular fan of Nora Ephron, but I certainly understand where Nance is coming from regarding writers who are influential in the development of one’s own voice. When I was young, the writers I wished to emulate most were Gore Vidal (old-school bitchy queen) and Evelyn Waugh (old-school bitchy closet queen). Both held world views that I found problematic but it didn’t diminish my admiration for their talents.

    Both, coincidentally, also toiled in Hollywood after making names for themselves in the publishing world, and perhaps the greatest testament to Waugh’s ear for dialogue is the screenplay of the original “Brideshead Revisited” movie. Nary a word from the novel was changed.

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  27. Julie Robinson said on June 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I couldn’t get through that one, Jeff. I don’t enjoy car wrecks, even at a distance.

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  28. MarkH said on June 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Nancy, before the day gets away, my compliments on your Ephron remembrance today. Which leads me to this from The Daily Beast’s 100 Who Rule the Web, and a question: why isn’t Nancy on this list? Note to Coozledad: do not, DO NOT look at #4!


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  29. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Today’s photo collection at The Atlantic concerns the Colorado fires, and WaPo has a story about how the firefighters aren’t eligible for health insurance because they are temporary workers, even though they might work a year’s worth of hours during the course of a season.

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  30. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I wonder why this is happening: In the entry above, I mistakenly entered a “/a” code after “The Atlantic” rather than an “” code, resulting in italicization of the rest of the sentence. I tried several times to edit the code, but the “/a” kept reappearing. Anybody know what might be going on?

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  31. alex said on June 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Try “” code after The Atlantic.

    Or maybe you did. Hard to talk about code because if you type it, it gets converted. Or disappears.

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  32. Charlotte said on June 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Oh, Cleaving. Sigh. A terrible terrible book. Felt to me like the curse of the two book deal …

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  33. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Alex, that sounds like “/TylerDurden” coding . . .

    Charlotte, I’m really curious. Do you think it was the writing and narrative that was terrible, or just the painful awkwardness of her life so clearly coming through more clearly than felt comfortable? I’m asking only because I can’t make my mind up, either. But I’m afraid that it’s so well written it’s too hard to read, and that would be more my problem than hers — although it has nothing to do with the unsaleability of the book for the movies.

    And part of me wondered: was she making certain (and boy, did she if she was) that THIS book would never be made into a movie, let alone one starring Amy Adams as her? Consciously or subconsciously. If so, her second book was a ringing success. Nora Ephron couldn’t have figured out how to get a useable screenplay out of this story, unless it was just the last quarter of the book (the odd travel extended epilogue).

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  34. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I think it would be amazing to be married to Nora Ephron. I also think she’d lie her ass off if it went bad, or wrong, or whatever. I have been through a solitary divorce, and I made it through funerals of both my mom and dad with the loving support of my ex-wife. I would not have made it without her. Never considered cheating, but she did. Claims she didn’t. Who am I to know? And Della, I do not understand what it is that I’ve done wrong:


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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Dude, you defended Carl Bernstein the day after Nora Ephron died. Even if you had a point, it’s not going anywhere today. Let it go. (And good for you and your ex-wife at your family funerals; that’s class on both your parts.)

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  36. nancy said on June 27, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Carl Bernstein’s affair wasn’t a private matter, and I don’t think he’s ever denied having it. He was running around town with Margaret Jay when his wife was home gestating their second child. Public people have public lives; it comes with the fat paychecks and fabulous dinner parties. She could have kept her mouth shut, but as romans a clef go, I think “Heartburn” is about as nifty as they come — she told her story (and yes, Carl would most definitely tell another), made some money and launched the next phase of her career.

    Stop complaining. The kids are grown, the author is dead and I bet even Carl doesn’t give a shit anymore.

    On edit: Fun fact: Margaret Jay is now known as Baroness Jay of Paddington. I’d say she got her just desserts, too.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    She is NOT. I refuse to click that link and see that it’s true.

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  38. LAMary said on June 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Nora was married to three writers. Dan Greenburg, Carl Bernstein and Nick Pileggi. She wrote nasty things about hubby number one so Carl should have seen it coming. I remember in high school I saw her on Good Morning America with husband one.
    I liked Crazy Salad, Wallflower at the Orgy and Scribble Scribble but I’m with you on the later stuff. I spoke to her a few times on the phone since she was a close friend of my first boss at the NYT Rocky Mountain Bureau. I never asked her anything more pithy than, “may I take a message?”

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  39. KLG said on June 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Charlie Pierce has a nice remembrance of Nora Ephron at the US Open (tennis) on his site today.

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  40. beb said on June 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Joline @30: To stop italics its “angle bracket /i angle bracket” in your comments you type “/a”. /a doesn’t do anything. Of course it’s probably too late to edit your post…

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  41. paddyo' said on June 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Alas, Julie R @23, Focus and its ilk (Ted Haggard’s former megachurch, for instance, and a whole nest of various right-leaning evangelical outfits) are all on the other (east) side of Interstate 25 from the foothills and canyons that are burning down now in “The Sprangs.” The flames would have to cross a couple of more miles plus the Air Force Academy campus and then take a four-lane divided-highway leap to reach Doc Dobson’s redoubt.

    But hey, if you believe their version of life-after-death, who knows? Perhaps he and his gang might eventually burn after all . . .

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  42. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I would say that Silkwood is one of the best movies ever made, but I read the RS articles first, so I’m biased. Kerr-McGee may have been the devil that tilted America down the road from greatness.

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  43. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Yes, I know. My point was that I typed /a when I meant to type /i and, for some reason, the system wouldn’t let me change it. That is, I opened my entry, changed a to i, and closed it, but the change didn’t “take”. When I opened the entry again, the a that I’d replaced w/ an i had somehow turned back into an a. Not the end of the world, but a curiosity.

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  44. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    And now, I tried to change “am” in the entry above to “an”, but that didn’t work either.

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  45. Sherri said on June 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Prospero, cheating on someone who is pregnant with your child is worse than serving divorce papers to your ex-wife on her hospital bed after cancer surgery.

    I watched “Heartburn” the movie last night, and noticed that the incredibly cute kid who played the daughter of Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson was the real life daughter of Meryl Streep, now a grown-up actress in her own right, Mamie Gummer.

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  46. Scout said on June 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Nancy, I loved your tribute and the reasons you cited for the way you feel. Ephron is one of those writers that make non-writers like myself marvel at how easy they make it look. I even like most of the Hollywood stuff. Sometimes I like fluff and I don’t think her rom-coms were that bad, especially compared to most of the crap Hollywood foists on us.

    After reading Julie and Julia, the only reason I went to see the movie was because of Streep and Adams. Powell was an irritating crybaby through the whole novel and I was relieved to see the character made more palatable for the screen.

    And Prospero, what Della and others have said. Not cool. Not today.

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  47. Another Connie said on June 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    After reading Heartburn, I always wondered how her children (one gestating, one very young at the time) felt about Bernstein as they grew up. Guess they are well into adult-hood now. And Nancy, I thought I was the only one who heard lines from Heartburn in the move Julie & Julia.

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  48. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Bullcrap, Scout. Is it true because she said it? Did Bernstein ever defend himself? It’s particularly low when you know the ex is damaged enough never to hit back.

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  49. Dan B said on June 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Rana and her parents were in Utah last week, and drove back to Chicago with a stop to see cousins in Colorado Springs. When she read about the fires, she looked at a map and realized that they had driven right by the fire sites and that the cousin lives in the evacuation zone.

    Fire season was a part of life in San Diego, and one year everyone was told to just stay indoors because the smoke was so bad. That was the years that some good friends who lived near the backcountry had their house burned to the ground. We went up one day to help them sift through the ashes. A few ceramics were about the only things to survive.

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  50. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Gringo Honeymoon in COLO, by Robert Earl Keen:


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  51. MarkH said on June 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    NPR has a good summation from a year ago of what’s in store for the West when the fires get hold of beetle-killed trees.


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  52. nancy said on June 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I confess to mixed feelings about backcountry “development” that must be protected from fire at great expense (and often, with utter futility). Part of this is predicated on the fact I’m not a westerner, get vertigo while standing on a log and don’t really understand a lot about how people live in places like Los Angeles and Colorado Springs, but still: We’ve seen this movie many times, and we know how it ends. Is the thrill of living in a forest, or on a forest fringe, or in a heavily wooded canyon, so strong that it’s worth the risk? Why did people in New Orleans have to face a nation of finger-shakers saying, “You should have known better than to live there!” while the overwhelmingly Republican precincts around the Springs are called “fighters” and issued fat insurance checks to rebuild while the ashes are still cooling?

    And Prospero, I think you’ve lost this one. Let’s drop it.

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  53. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Wow, Mark, that NPR piece is incredible. We humans have a lot to answer for.

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  54. LAMary said on June 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    When I called my mother in law to tell her I was expecting her first grandchild, she told me to expect my husband to have affairs while I was pregnant because all men do.

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  55. Bitter Scribe said on June 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    LAMary: It sounds like your mother in law did not have very high expectations or standards for her son.

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  56. LAMary said on June 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    She was right as it turned out. Not that all men do, but her son did. I think his father had as well so I guess her frame of reference informed that statement.

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  57. Bitter Scribe said on June 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I wonder if it ever occurred to her to say something to her son? Or was “all men do it” her rationalization of choice?

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  58. Charlotte said on June 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Jeff — the reason I think Cleaving failed is that all the marriage stuff felt completely undigested, and hence, my suspicion that it was published to fulfill a 2-book deal. It’s not badly written, but it needed an editor and probably 10 years to gain some perspective on the experience. Gabrielle Hamilton’s book is an interesting contrast. She tanked an earlier version and paid back the advance. While Blood Bones and Butter still had issues, particularly the end and the marriage part (again, not enough distance from the situation) but for the most part, that book had a narrative shape that made sense. And the travel part of Cleaving was just dumb — tacked on, and added nothing — but probably got her a nice travel budget. She’s not a bad writer, but she had no control over that material … it’s too bad, because I haven’t seen *anything* from her since — not a blog, or a food column or anything.

    And Nancy — the defense of isolated subdivisions is a huge issue out here, and I mostly agree with you. You build a house way back in the woods, it’s going to burn at some point (side note, it’s one reason Gary Snyder took the UC Davis job in the early 1990s. The University agreed to archive his papers, and he knows his place will burn one of these days. My former advisor had a very funny story about Gary stuffing his car full of boxes of papers, then driving back to Davis terrified he’d lose it all in a wreck). They lost a bunch of houses outside of Roundup last night — high winds, no humidity, lightning strike. Folks stood across the road watching from the parking lot of a bar until the fire jumped the road and came at them: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/acre-wildfire-south-of-roundup-destroys-several-homes/article_0f284562-ffcd-5b57-bb61-43bac7389fea.html
    It’s going to be a long summer out here.

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  59. Brandon said on June 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    “Nora Ephron died today. I didn’t even know she was sick.”

    Me neither. I first heard about it on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

    But it seems MarkH broke the news on this blog in a comment to the “Fathead” post.

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  60. MaryRC said on June 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    The Heartburn scene that really establishes the husband as a jerk is the one where the couple are playing a party game with friends that requires them to describe themselves with a word or brief phrase. The Bernstein character describes himself as “in love” and smiles at his wife while the rest of the crowd goes “Awww”. In hindsight, of course, she realises that he was in love with someone else at the time. That incident in itself would be reason enough to write the book.

    The movie Heartburn didn’t do that well at the box office (much to Bernstein’s glee). I wonder if that was why Ephron’s later works featured more docile heroines instead of her wise-cracking pie-throwing wife in Heartburn. By the time she made You’ve Got Mail, her heroine was so twee she could have stood in for P.G. Wodehouse’s Madeleine Basset (who thought the stars were God’s daisy chain).

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  61. brian stouder said on June 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I was once severely reprimanded by the proprietress*, for whizzing italics all over the comments thread; ’cause it used to be that if you failed to ‘turn them off’, they continued into subsequent comments!

    Aside from that, this story reminded me a little bit of nn.c, only because Detroit is stuck with a clueless former Fort Wayne TV newscaster on their city council.


    Our own Mary Collins has been down this road before, and blamed her failing breathalyzer test on rum-cake and Skittles**. I confess I laughed about it that time; but the looming tragedy inherent in this story really isn’t funny at all. (for one thing, she has apparently already lost her job)

    *This is untrue; but it adds a little dramatic flair to the narrative, eh?

    **This is true, believe it or not.

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  62. Brandon said on June 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I was once severely reprimanded by the proprietress*, for whizzing italics all over the comments thread; ’cause it used to be that if you failed to ‘turn them off’, they continued into subsequent comments!

    @brian stouder: Are you referring to my comment (2:11 p.m.)? The editing function was a bit “stuck” so my edit didn’t show up immediately, as it usually does.

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  63. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Here’s an interesting anecdote about Nora Ephron. As interesting as the story is the source: Jennifer Rubin, a conservative WaPo blogger. The piece is striking because it is so warm and gracious; Rubin’s usual style is cold, dismissive, and smug. Would that she could show some of the same appreciation for others when she writes about politics.

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  64. Deborah said on June 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    We had that bark beetle infestation in Abiquiu, NM probably 8 or so years ago, we lost every piñon tree on our property, only the junipers are left.NUke new piñon are starting to grow again. It was really nasty, there still are a few grey tree carcasses, but we’ve cleared out most of them. It was because of the drought, the trees can usually handle the bark beetles but the drought made them more vulnerable. I hear it’s all the way up in the Canadian Rockies now.

    The monsoon season usually starts mid July through August in Northern New Mexico, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. In the monsoon season it rains every day, a downpour in the afternoon, comes on suddenly and lasts about a half hour to an hour. Not a steady drip of rain that lasts all day, which would be helpful. The deluges cause all kinds of problems with roads washing out etc. The arroyos run during that time (dry creek beds most of the year) the water tears through them at an alarming clip.

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  65. Prospero said on June 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Fine. Every assholism imputed to Carl Bernstein is absolutely, without a doubt true. She died and she was lever, so she would never lie. And not all men do. That is spectacularly stupid. And a sad piece of bullshit to base life on. Dropped.

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  66. brian stouder said on June 27, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Prospero, I’m with you!

    If there’s gonna be a bar-room brawl, it will (finally) erupt tomorrow morning, when the Supremes do their thing; unless they exercise yet another obscure delaying mechanism…almost as if their goal to push this as deeply into the presidential campaign as possible.

    And when that happens – I’ve got your back, and I know you have mine.

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  67. beb said on June 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Jolene @44: Nancy’s server seems to be slow when serving updates to the page. I’ve noticed on several occasions in the past week when edits to my comments don’t seem to appear even after refreshing the page. Your post now shows an “an” where an “am” might have been.

    While Utah isn’t burning like Colorado I’m given to understand that it’s governor is caught between a rock and the NRA. Utah is as dry as every one else, and there’s a great danger of fires being started by yokels firing their guns into rock piles but because Utah has such strong pro-gun laws the governor can’t forbid people to shooting their guns. He can only ask them to be responsible.

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    • jcburns said on June 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      The server’s fine. Your browser, remember, may or may not decide to request a new copy of the page when you’ve edited it…it thinks it’s doing you a favor by caching. And then, yes, there’s some caching at the server too. I’d say “Y’all be patient,” but that seems unlikely…

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  68. Charlotte said on June 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Deborah — the bark beetles have killed off great swathes of forest up here. We watched it come across the Bozeman pass two years ago, now much of Livingston peak is showing brown. It’s going to make this year’s fire season even more virulent (as well as depriving grizzlies of a major food source — just what we need, hungry grizzlies in a dead forest.) But hey, climate change is just a liberal commie pinko myth.
    Girlfriend from high school who lives in Colorado Springs has been posting Facebook updates all day — so far, her hardwired landline answering machine keeps picking up, so her house is probably still there. (Although part of me feels that a forest fire is just what some of those exurban developments of McMansions in the woods deserve.)

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  69. Julie Robinson said on June 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Ms. Skittles-made-me-drunk was on the same flight as us one time, and was as obnoxious as is possible. Her family’s luggage blocked everyone else’s at the check-in desk and boarding the plane. She seemed oblivious to it all as she chatted away about going to Cabo. She was also oblivious to the poor behavior of her children and husband. Since then I haven’t been a fan. (As if I ever was.)

    Craig Ferguson also wrote a book where he detailed all his failings–drugs, infidelity, etc, and somehow I liked him better after reading it. Julie Powell just came across as a clueless jerk.

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  70. alex said on June 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Yes, I’ve also noticed that the edit function is running slow. I’m also a bit confounded by my new Mac, which doesn’t open up onto a home page but takes me back to whatever I was last viewing. Sometimes it opens multiple windows from the last session or sessions. Absolutely irritating. I notice, however, that if I open a different browser I see my changes immediately.

    When I first heard about Colorado Springs, it brought me great joy to think that Focus on the Family et al. might get to fry in their own hellfire. Damn you, nonexistent God, for not putting your hex on the deserving.

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  71. nancy said on June 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Colleen has the ultimate Mrs. Skittles story. I don’t feel I can tell it without her permission.

    Alex, check your preferences in Safari. You can probably fix that.

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  72. Deborah said on June 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I also had a glitch while trying to edit my comment at #64. the second sentence starts with NUke?? Which wasn’t what I typed at all?? I was trying to add “But” and it didn’t show up right away, I had to run some errands so didn’t check back till now.

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  73. MarkH said on June 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Charlotte, the auction for Pray, MT starts in one hour. Will you be in attendance?


    Wish I had the $$$

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  74. Jolene said on June 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    What Carl Bernstein has to say about Ephron now.

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  75. Charlotte said on June 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Oh Mark — Pray’s not really all that — my sweetie’s vacation cabin (unsold spec house) is right around the corner — what they’re marketing as a “town” is a couple of modulars, and a not-very-historic building (but they did declare the old gas station tanks not a hazard last week). Plus it’s right on East River Road — which has gotten really busy. There are so many more interesting spots (like a house assembled from 4 old vacation cabins moved from West Yellowstone on 5 acres nearby. Could be yours …)

    Smoke in the air here. Apparently a downed power line nearly burned up a bunch of houses on Convict Grade road down by the fishing access. And some idiot was firing off big fireworks at 3am (compounded by my dogs waking in mid-bark from a sound sleep). Morons.

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  76. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    After all the smoke and heat on the subject, Jolene’s link throws some light on the subject and is worth quoting:

    “We became ‘constructive’ divorced parents,” Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter, told us in an email Wednesday. They shared custody of their two boys (one now a writer, the other a musician), consulted on “major parental decisions,” he said, “and shared immense pride” in their accomplishments.

    And their relationship? Bernstein recalled it as “increasingly respectful” as it evolved over the years. Both remarried, and enjoyed “high regard for each other’s spouses, and knowledge all around that we all got it right the next time around. She’s going to be missed by all of us.”

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  77. Deborah said on June 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Hard to mention Nora Ephron and Rielle Hunter in the same comment but here goes: Hunter is just a clueless moron. What else can you say. Of course Edwards is even worse. I think I need some rehab to cure myself of interest in the lives of those two. It’s like a train wreck and I’m a rubber necker.

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  78. LAMary said on June 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Prospero, here’s one good thing I can say about Carl Bernstein. When Bob Woodward was scheduled to speak at University of Denver, when i was a student there, he cancelled at the last minute and Carl Bernstein volunteered to take his place. He was engaging and informative and inspired a whole lot of students. The nextissue of the school paper had a front page story about it and quoted someone as saying that now we all know taht Bob Woodward is a jerk.

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  79. Dorothy said on June 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I’m really sad to hear that Don Grady has passed. My Three Sons was always a favorite show in our house in the way back. Whose the next one this week?

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  80. Kaye said on June 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    I appreciated Nancy’s Nora story and many of the links; would love to hear Deb’s too.

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  81. jcburns said on June 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Just took a look at the inscription in the front of my hardcover copy of ‘Heartburn.’ Hmm, who got this fine book for me so long ago? Why it was you, Nance. Thanks again.

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  82. brian stouder said on June 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Well, it may be whistling past the graveyard, but I’ve heard several credible folks on TV guess that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld in all its particulars by a 6-3 vote, with Roberts writing the majority opinion.

    If this indeed comes to pass, it will make me smile. (and Lawrence Tribe and Walter Dellinger are no slouches, so who knows?…)

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  83. MarkH said on June 28, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Ha ha, Charlotte. Do you really not get it? I saw where your cabin was, one reason why I posted about the auction, as you are obviously near Pray. I’ve been through Pray many times as I prefer the east river road going to and from Livingston and Chico; was there just last year as a matter of fact. It’s not just a bunch of amenities like modulars or now-safe gas tanks, other buildings historic or not, or whatever commercial development potential they’re marketing. It IS a town, not just a town, a town with a post office complete with zip code and a reprieve from the USPS. And it’s a town in Montana, and not just in Montana, but in Paradise Valley. And it’s name is Pray, fer cryin’ out loud. They’re marketing a dream, the dream of the wild west. Unique. The antithesis of urban living. Part of why you landed in Montana, perhaps? I know it’s why I landed in the Tetons after five or six years of being paid to roam the west in the early ’80s. I actually thought it would be cool to own Buford, Wyo. when it got all famous for its auction a few months ago, but that’s on I-80 on a very windy ridge. Pray, Montana? Yellowstone, the Absarokas, the Crazies, Chico? Wish I had the independent means. The question remains, did the bidding get to Mrs. Parker’s value of $1.4 million? And is it worth it…

    Here some other towns for sale with more (or less) to offer than Pray:


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  84. Dorothy said on June 28, 2012 at 8:45 am

    *who’s* not whose. That’s what I get for getting out of bed and stopping at the laptop when I should have been sleeping.

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