I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections

3.2 222
by Nora Ephron

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Nora Ephron returns with her first audiobook since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

Ephron writes about falling hard for

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Nora Ephron returns with her first audiobook since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

Ephron writes about falling hard for a way of life (“Journalism: A Love Story”) and about breaking up even harder with the men in her life (“The D Word”); lists “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” (“There is no explaining the stock market but people try”; “Cary Grant was Jewish”; “Men cheat”); reveals the alarming evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (“The Six Stages of E-Mail”); and asks the age-old question, which came first, the chicken soup or the cold? All the while, she gives candid, edgy voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but rarely acknowledging.

Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true—and could have come only from Nora Ephron—I Remember Nothing is pure joy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ephron's humorous observations on aging so beloved in I Feel Bad About My Neck continue in this collection of sprightly essays on everything from her deep affection for Google to memories of her complicated relationship with the famously irascible playwright, Lillian Hellmann. Ephron's voice has a nice grain to it, but where it should skip and flow to mimic the conversational patter of her prose, it stumbles and drags. Ephron enunciates so carefully and pauses so haltingly, the audiobook sounds more like bad amateur theater rather than an acclaimed humorist reading her own material. Stripped of the author's light touch and self-deprecation, the jokes fall flat, and Ephron's quips on, say, going to the bookstore to buy a book on Alzheimer's and forgetting the name of the book, are likely to elicits more cringes than chuckles. A Knopf hardcover. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
978-0-307-59560-7     Alfred A. Knopf          Fall 2010

“At 69, she’s just two years older than Keith Richards, but to hear her tell it, Ephron’s recall’s far worse. Luckily some synapses are still firing: The follow-up to I Feel Bad About My Neck includes chapters on her youth and career and drily hilarious musings on the trials of aging. If we have to grow old (and as they say, consider the alternative) there’s no better guide.”
People Magazine (Top 10 Books of 2010)

“Vivid . . . Nora Ephron’s newest book is titled I Remember Nothing. She’s lying. Although her confessional about forgetting people’s names rings all too true to those of a certain age, she’s still lying. Ephron remembers quite a bit in this entertaining collection of stories about her life so far. . . . Ephron has been handed some good material to play with over the years and she knows what to do with it. Anyone who has grown to appreciate her witty and carefree way of telling a story will not be disappointed here. She remains the neighbor we all wish we had. Someone to share a cup of coffee with. Or better yet, a glass of wine. Maybe two. . . . [Ephron] has not lost her ability to zero in on modern life’s little mysteries, like our obsession with freshly ground pepper and bottled water. As for the essay about remembering nothing, which kicks off this delightful collection, it’s one that millions of aging Americans will relate to. Listen. . . . If we’re all headed to the old folks home, we couldn’t have a better guide than Nora Ephron.”
—Craig Wilson, USA Today  

 “The seduction of Nora Ephron’s writing is that after reading a couple of paragraphs you think you can do it, too. Her writing is so straightforward, so honest, so direct that gee, it shouldn’t be hard to make sentences like that. So you try, and then you realize that not only do your sentences sag in the middle and end in semi-colons; you realize that you don’t live in New York, haven’t gone to endless dinner parties, are not a fabulous cook, have never directed a film, written a play or novel, or actually anything . . . It’s not just that she gives us permission to eat butter and say unkind things about our parents . . . It’s that she is so clear-eyed, so free of vitriol and sarcasm and artifice that we believe everything she says. . . . ‘The D Word,’ her reflection on divorce, ought to be tacked up on the wall of every divorce court in the world, and the judge should say, before reaching a decision, ‘Read this.’ It is a powerful section [and] heartbreaking . . . She [also] writes about her own shortcomings, about betrayals by people she admired and most movingly, about the death of her best friend. If a theme runs beneath the wit and cleverness of I Remember Nothing, it is about the difficulty of coming to terms with one’s mortality. . . . At the end she writes a list of things she will miss . . . What I will miss is not being around for all the books Nora Ephron is going to write.”
 —Jane Juska, San Francisco Chronicle 
“Fabulous . . . Masterly . . . [Ephron is] a tremendously talented woman . . . She’ll dazzle you with strings of perfect prose.”
—Carolyn See, The Washington Post Book World 
I Remember Nothing reads like a swan song . . . But here’s hoping that Ephron, who will turn 70 next year, has at least a few more terrific books and movies in her.”
—David Kamp, Vanity Fair 
I Remember Nothing: Fortunately that’s not quite true. In these essays, Nora Ephron covers her divorce, her early years in journalism, her obsession with online Scrabble and her mother’s alcoholism. She does forget what happened when she met Eleanor Roosevelt. But she remembers plenty.”

 “[I Remember Nothing has] the rare combination of youth and wisdom. . . . Ephron’s skill as a personal essayist resides in her finesse. She locates a kernel of universality . . . She’s practicing the social criticism she’s so good at.”
—Wesley Morris, Boston Sunday Globe 
“Tantalizingly fresh and forthright . . . Essays about her mother’s alcoholism and Ephron’s sense of betrayal by the writer Lillian Hellman cover previously uncharted territory and are also among the most thoughtful parts of the book. . . . She’s self-effacing and brilliant. I use lines of hers all the time. . . . She’s like Benjamin Franklin or Shakespeare: her words are now part of the fabric of the English language.”
—Alex Kuczynski, The New York Times Book Review 
“The piece titled ‘Journalism: A Love Story’ is a wonderfully evocative portrait of a certain time—the ’60s and ’70s—in New York print journalism . . . [In] the piece titled ‘Pentimento,’ . . . Ephron precisely captures how dangerous admiration can be to both parties. . . . Ephron’s voice helped launch a whole new way of writing, and I still love to hear it.”
—Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Book Review 
“Introspective . . . Rich with self-deprecating humor at its finest . . . Known for her casual humor and her realistic spin on the world, Ephron writes in an engaging manner, so much so that you can almost hear her laughing as she pounds away at the keyboard. . . . She’s never been more real in this collection—a full pleasure to read.”
—Helen Gallagher, New York Journal of Books
“Inviting . . . Companionable . . . The best essay in I Remember Nothing . . . is an article about Ms. Ephron’s first, excited glimpses of journalism as a profession, and it is fittingly called ‘Journalism: A Love Story.’ Here she writes about rising from a lowly ‘mail girl’ at Newsweek in 1962 to a more elite ‘researcher,’ the person charged with filling in the ‘tk’ . . . The newspaper strike that began in late 1962 propelled Ms. Ephron into parodying a New York Post column. . . . A well-loved, much-mimicked, wonderfully tk writer was born. . . . ‘The Six Stages of E-mail’ is a very funny guide to the novelty of e-mail. . . . Ephron retains her magnetic hold on a reader’s attention . . . She can write an entertaining riff about practically anything or everybody.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Reading these succinct, razor-sharp essays by veteran humorist, novelist, and screenwriter-director Ephron is to be reminded that she cut her teeth as a New York Post writer in the 1960s, as she recounts in ‘Journalism: A Love Story.’ Forthright, frequently wickedly backhanded, these essays cover the gamut of later-life observations, [like] the dourly hilarious title essay about losing her memory, which asserts that her ubiquitous senior moment has now become the requisite Google moment . . . Shorts such as the several ‘I Just Want to Say’ pieces feature Ephron’s trademark prickly contrariness . . . Other essays delve into memories of fascinating people that she knew . . . Most winning, however, are her priceless reflections on her early life . . . There’s an elegiac quality to many of these pieces, handled with wit and tenderness.”
Publishers Weekly 
“The legions of readers who loved I Feel Bad About My Neck will pounce on Ephron’s pithy new collection. A master of the jujitsu essay, Ephron leaves us breathless with rueful laughter. As the title suggests, she writes about the weird vagaries of memory as we age . . . But the truth is, Ephron remembers a lot. Take her stinging reminiscence of her entry into journalism at Newsweek in the early 1960s, when ‘girls,’ no matter how well qualified, were never considered for reporter positions. . . . Whether she takes on bizarre hair problems, culinary disasters, an addiction to online Scrabble, the persistent pain of a divorce, or that mean old devil, age, Ephron is candid, self-deprecating, laser-smart, and hilarious.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist

Alex Kuczynski
Nora Ephron's new book of essays is titled I Remember Nothing, but that's a sop. She remembers everything, and while some of the material in this book is tantalizingly fresh and forthright, some of it we've seen before. Which doesn't mean it's not just as entertaining the second or even third time around, offered in each new iteration with a few more spicy details…[Ephron]'s familiar but funny, boldly outspoken yet simultaneously reassuring.
—The New York Times
Carolyn See
What you can finally say about Ephron is that she's a tremendously talented woman from a significant American period. Yes, she has some trouble making up her mind. She'll come horrifyingly close to self-denigration (in the divorce essay, for example), but then, just in case you might go along with that gag, she'll dazzle you in the next pages with strings of perfect prose. Luck, hard work, privilege, yes, yes, yes. But tremendous talent is her forte, her strong suit, her fiendish trump card.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
In a recent NPR interview, Ephron shared with listeners a fundamental lesson she learned from her mother about humor: "If you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you, but if you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your joke." In this follow-up to the national best seller I Feel Bad About My Neck (2006)—also available from Books on Tape/Random Audio and read by the author—Ephron takes the banana peels of life and aging and turns them into funny, relatable, and sometimes touching stories. The chapters on email and journalism are particularly amusing, while the accounts of Ephron's divorce and her mother's alcoholism show a different side to the author/director best known for her comedy. Ephron herself reads, in the manner of a best girlfriend. One doesn't have to be on the other side of 50 to appreciate her wit; recommended. [The Knopf hc, published in November 2010, was an LJ Best Seller; the Vintage pb will publish in November 2011.—Ed.]—Theresa Horn, St. Joseph Cty. P.L., South Bend, IN
Kirkus Reviews

Bland, often rambling anecdotes from the acclaimed director and screenwriter.

Ephron (I Feel Bad About My Neck, 2006, etc.) returns to the literary scene with a collection of essays that thematically hover around the issue of aging. "Once I went to a store to buy a book about Alzheimer's disease and forgot the name of it," she writes. The author compounds this humorous memory lapse alongside dozens of more egregious slips, leading to the conclusion, "All this makes me feel sad, and wistful, but mostly it makes me feel old." Ephron remains unapologetic throughout her waxing nostalgia, continually referring to a bygone era where people didn't use the F-word and, "I'll tell you something else: they didn't drink wine then. Nobody knew about wine." Throughout, the author engages in heavy doses of name-dropping, but she remains aloof. In many ways, Ephron's humor functions as a defense mechanism against aging, and while she pokes fun at her thinning hair and fading memory, the reader anxiously awaits an honest portrayal of the woman herself. "The D Word," a firsthand account of the difficulties of divorce, offers a rare and refreshing glimpse into the author's world, though in the final lines the reader is corralled back into familiar terrain: "for a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most important thing about me. And now it's not. Now the most important thing about me is that I'm old." "Journalism: A Love Story" and "Going to the Movies" offer similar heartfelt accounts of a swiftly changing world, yet Ephron's willingness to open up to the reader remains the exception, not the rule. Further, the majority of her Andy Rooney–esque musings lack profundity—e.g., the opening to "The O Word," in which each sentence occupies its own paragraph: "I'm old. I am sixty-nine years old. I'm not really old, of course. Really old is eighty. But if you are young, you would definitely think that I'm old. No one actually likes to admit that they're old. The most they will cop to is that they're older. Or oldish."

Only occasionally reaches emotional depth—seems like a tardy attempt to capitalize on the success of I Feel Bad About My Neck.

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Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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5.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

I Remember Nothing

I have been forgetting things for years—at least since I was in my thirties. I know this because I wrote something about it at the time. I have proof. Of course, I can't remember exactly where I wrote about it, or when, but I could probably hunt it up if I had to.

In my early days of forgetting things, words would slip away, and names. I did what you normally do when this happens: I scrolled through a mental dictionary, trying to figure out what letter the word began with, and how many syllables were involved. Eventually the lost thing would float back into my head, recaptured. I never took such lapses as harbingers of doom, or old age, or actual senescence. I always knew that whatever I'd forgotten was eventually going to come back to me sooner or later. Once I went to a store to buy a book about Alzheimer's disease and forgot the name of it. I thought it was funny. And it was, at the time.

Here's a thing I've never been able to remember: the title of that movie with Jeremy Irons. The one about Claus von Bülow. You know the one. All I ever succeeded in remembering was that it was three words long, and the middle word was "of." For many years, this did not bother me at all, because no one I knew could ever think of the title either. One night, eight of us were at the theater together, and not one of us could retrieve it. Finally, at intermission, someone went out to the street and Googled it; we were all informed of the title and we all vowed to remember it forever. For all I know, the other seven did. I, on the other hand, am back to remembering that it's three words long with an "of" in the middle.

By the way, when we finally learned the title that night, we all agreed it was a bad title. No wonder we didn't remember it.

I am going to Google for the name of that movie. Be right back. . . .

It's Reversal of Fortune.

How is one to remember that title? It has nothing to do with anything.

But here's the point: I have been forgetting things for years, but now I forget in a new way. I used to believe I could eventually retrieve whatever was lost and then commit it to memory. Now I know I can't possibly. Whatever's gone is hopelessly gone. And what's new doesn't stick.

The other night I met a man who informed me that he had a neurological disorder and couldn't remember the faces of people he'd met. He said that sometimes he looked at himself in a mirror and had no idea whom he was looking at. I don't mean to minimize this man's ailment, which I'm sure is a bona fide syndrome with a long name that's capitalized, but all I could think was, Welcome to my world. A couple of years ago, the actor Ryan O'Neal confessed that he'd recently failed to recognize his own daughter, Tatum, at a funeral and had accidentally made a pass at her. Everyone was judgmental about this, but not me. A month earlier, I'd found myself in a mall in Las Vegas when I saw a very pleasant-looking woman coming toward me, smiling, her arms outstretched, and I thought, Who is this woman? Where do I know her from? Then she spoke and I realized it was my sister Amy.

You might think, Well, how was she to know her sister would be in Las Vegas? I'm sorry to report that not only did I know, but she was the person I was meeting in the mall.

All this makes me feel sad, and wistful, but mostly it makes me feel old. I have many symptoms of old age, aside from the physical. I occasionally repeat myself. I use the expression, "When I was young." Often I don't get the joke, although I pretend that I do. If I go see a play or a movie for a second time, it's as if I didn't see it at all the first time, even if the first time was just recently. I have no idea who anyone in People magazine is.

I used to think my problem was that my disk was full; now I'm forced to conclude that the opposite is true: it's becoming empty.

I have not yet reached the nadir of old age, the Land of Anecdote, but I'm approaching it.

I know, I know, I should have kept a journal. I should have saved the love letters. I should have taken a storage room somewhere in Long Island City for all the papers I thought I'd never need to look at again.

But I didn't.

And sometimes I'm forced to conclude that I remember nothing.

For example: I met Eleanor Roosevelt. It was June 1961, and I was on my way to a political internship at the Kennedy White House. All the Wellesley/Vassar interns drove to Hyde Park to meet the former first lady. I was dying to meet her. I'd grown up with a photograph in our den of her standing with my parents backstage at a play they'd written. My mother was wearing a corsage and Eleanor wore pearls. It was a photograph I always thought of as iconic, if I'm using the word correctly, which, if I am, it will be for the first time. We were among the thousands of Americans (mostly Jews) who had dens, and, in their dens, photos of Eleanor Roosevelt. I idolized the woman. I couldn't believe I was going to be in the same room with her. So what was she like that day in Hyde Park, you may wonder. I HAVE NO IDEA. I can't remember what she said or what she wore; I can barely summon up a mental picture of the room where we met her, although I have a very vague memory of drapes. But here's what I do remember: I got lost on the way. And ever since, every time I've been on the Taconic State Parkway, I'm reminded that I got lost there on the way to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. But I don't remember a thing about Eleanor Roosevelt herself.

In 1964 the Beatles came to New York for the first time. I was a newspaper reporter and I was sent to the airport to cover their arrival. It was a Friday. I spent the weekend following them around. Sunday night they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. You could make an argument that the sixties began that night, on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was a historic night. I was there. I stood in the back of the Ed Sullivan Theater and watched. I remember how amazingly obnoxious the fans were-the teenage girls who screamed and yelled and behaved like idiots. But how were the Beatles, you may ask. Well, you are asking the wrong person. I could barely hear them.

I marched on Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. This was in 1967, and it was the most significant event of the antiwar movement. Thousands and thousands of people were there. I went with a lawyer I was dating. We spent most of the day in a hotel room having sex. I am not proud of this, but I mention it because it explains why I honestly cannot remember anything about the protest, including whether I ever even got to the Pentagon. I don't think I did. I don't think I've ever been to the Pentagon. But I wouldn't bet a nickel on it one way or the other.

Norman Mailer wrote an entire book about this march, called The Armies of the Night. It was 562 pages long. It won the Pulitzer Prize. And I can barely write two paragraphs about it. If you knew Norman Mailer and me and were asked to guess which of us cared more about sex, you would, of course, pick Norman Mailer. How wrong you would be.

Here are some people I met that I remember nothing about:

Justice Hugo Black
Ethel Merman
Jimmy Stewart
Alger Hiss
Senator Hubert Humphrey
Cary Grant
Benny Goodman
Peter Ustinov
Harry Kurnitz
George Abbott
Dorothy Parker

I went to the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King tennis match and couldn't really see anything from where I was sitting.

I went to stand in front of the White House the night Nixon resigned and here's what I have to tell you about it: my wallet was stolen.

I went to many legendary rock concerts and spent them wondering when they would end and where we would eat afterward and whether the restaurant would still be open and what I would order.

I went to at least one hundred Knicks games and I remember only the night that Reggie Miller scored eight points in the last nine seconds.

I went to cover the war in Israel in l973 but my therapist absolutely forbid me to go to the front.

I was not at Woodstock, but I might as well have been because I wouldn't remember it anyway.

On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can't remember it, who can?

The past is slipping away and the present is a constant affront. I can't possibly keep up. When I was younger, I managed to overcome my resistance to new things. After a short period of negativity, I flung myself at the Cuisinart food processor. I was curious about technology. I became a champion of e-mail and blogs—I found them romantic; I even made movies about them. But now I believe that almost anything new has been put on the earth in order to make me feel bad about my dwindling memory, and I've erected a wall to protect myself from most of it.

On the other side of that wall are many things, pinging. For the most part I pay no attention. For a long time, I didn't know the difference between the Sunnis and the Shias, but there were so many pings I was finally forced to learn. But I can't help wondering, Why did I bother? Wasn't it enough to know they didn't like each other? And in any case, I have now forgotten.

At this moment, some of the things I'm refusing to know anything about include:

The former Soviet republics
The Kardashians
All Housewives, Survivors, American Idols, and Bachelors
Karzai's brother
Every drink invented since the Cosmopolitan
Especially the drink made with crushed mint leaves. You know the one.

I am going to Google the name of that drink. Be right back. . . .

The Mojito.

I am living in the Google years, no question of that. And there are advantages to it. When you forget something, you can whip out your iPhone and go to Google. The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn't it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up. You can delude yourself that no one at the table thinks of you as a geezer. And finding the missing bit is so quick. There's none of the nightmare of the true Senior Moment-the long search for the answer, the guessing, the self- recrimination, the head-slapping mystification, the frustrated finger-snapping. You just go to Google and retrieve it.

You can't retrieve your life (unless you're on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).

But you can retrieve the name of that actor who was in that movie, the one about World War II. And the name of that writer who wrote that book, the one about her affair with that painter. Or the name of that song that was sung by that singer, the one about love.

You know the one.

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