She Made Me Laugh: My Friend Nora Ephron by Richard Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sleepless in New Milford, NJ
In “She Made Me Laugh,” we learn that writer/director Nora Ephron is someone who would lead friends on a tour of Italy’s great restaurants, arrive late at one, and then stand and make an insulting gesture to the entire wait staff because they weren’t attentive enough.
This is what passes for loveable to Ephron’s friend, Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist and author of her bio.
Well, maybe not “loveable.” Even Cohen seemed to have mixed feelings about this anecdote. Perhaps (permitting me to put words in the head of a much-more-accomplished writer) he thought, “Nora has spunk!” -- in reference to a scene from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show in the type of 1970’s newsroom that Cohen and Ephron both obviously adored.
But, like Lou Grant, I hate spunk. So while Ephron may have made Cohen laugh, the sensibility on display in this book often made me cringe.
Cohen lovingly depicts an era when media and literary gatekeepers hobnobbed aboard David Geffen’s yacht or at a Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn dinner party. Once, after being slighted this crowd, Cohen proclaims, “That summer, the Hamptons did without me.”
I’m glad that world doesn’t exist anymore. These summers, the Hamptons are doing without all the best journalists and artists and writers. They live, create and “summer” in all corners of the world, enabled and connected by technology. There are no boundaries or gatekeepers. Everyone can be critic, or a star.
These days, the only sure way to tell a decent person from an asshole is if he or she is kind to the wait staff.
Two good things came out of reading this book, however.
First, I am now much more aware of Ephron’s entire career, and I eagerly look forward to reading more of her writing. Before now, I had thought of her as the writer/director of “Sleepless in Seattle” and thought she had written the famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” which, it turns out, was improvised by Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, and Rob and Estelle Reiner.
Second, I can now channel my inner Nick Carraway, since there are several remarkable anecdotes in this book involving the actor Tom Hanks.
So now, as the sun sets on this review, I see a vision of Hanks from across an imaginary lawn. “They’re a rotten crowd,” I shout to him, thinking of all his rich friends summering in the Hamptons. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
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