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Posts Tagged ‘Nora Ephron’

All the News Not Fit to Print

October 23, 2014 | by

NTNYT

“Sounds as if they emptied the back room at Elaine’s for this one.” —Calvin Trillin, in 1978, speculating on the character of those behind Not the New York Times.

The New York Times has seen surprisingly few interruptions in its 163-year history. The paper took five holidays in the early 1850s; a strike in 1962–3 led to nineteen days of silence; another, in 1965, caused four “joint” publication dates, which combined the Saturday and Sunday papers. And then there was 1978, when, from August 10 to November 4, a multiunion strike shuttered all three of New York City’s major newspapers. No editions of the Times were printed for a record-setting eighty-eight days.

Two and a half months into the ’78 strike, though—and thirty-six years ago today—New Yorkers awoke to find the Times unexpectedly back on newsstands, kind of. This was Not the New York Times, a one-off parody rife with satirical news stories, faux advertisements, and farcical editorials. Among the items on the front page were an exposé on an exotic new drug (“pronounced ko-kayne” and “generally ingested nasally”), a tedious seven-paragraph report written entirely in bureaucratese (“Carter Forestalls Efforts To Defuse Discord Policy”), and Mayor Koch’s recipe for chicken curry. There was a weather notice, too: “Mostly present today, still there tomorrow.”

The spoof, it turned out, was the brainchild of Paris Review founder George Plimpton and a handful of his friends, including Christopher Cerf, Tony Hendra, and Rusty Unger. Among those enlisted as “journalists” were Carl Bernstein, Nora Ephron, and Terry Southern—though none was exactly forthright about his or her contributions.

“I had nothing to do with this,” Cerf quipped. “I can give you a list of other people who weren’t involved as well. It’s also not true that we used the Plimptons’ apartment to put the paper together. I ought to know. I was there all week.” Plimpton himself was unavailable for comment—presumably tidying up after playing host to the editorial debauchery. (Incidentally, The Paris Review—also run out of Plimpton’s Seventy second Street apartment—failed to meet its deadlines that fall; the staff was forced to merge its final two issues into a single Fall-Winter edition.) Read More »

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Lonely Hunter

April 4, 2014 | by

Shopcorner_trailer_3

A still from The Shop Around the Corner, 1940.

“That’s it!” someone exclaimed to her friend. “That’s the place where they meet!” She was standing in front of an Upper West Side coffee shop that figures in a pivotal scene in the 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail. They snapped a picture, they went in; I guess it was their destination. It takes all kinds, of course, and New York is all about finding your own city within a city. Hadn’t I passed a Friends bus tour in the West Village the week before?

I’ve always really disliked You’ve Got Mail, without being sure why. It’s not just that it’s twee and treacly, or feels dated. It’s not merely that it’s such a pale shadow of The Shop Around the Corner, the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch classic to which it is an ostensible homage. I remember seeing You’ve Got Mail when it came out and stalking out of the theater afterward, surrounded by my bemused high school friends, obscurely convinced that the filmmakers did not understand love. What I knew from love is unclear—I had never had anything resembling a relationship—but it’s certainly true that something about the film got under my skin. And now I begin to see that this something was, and is, about loneliness. Read More »

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Gurley Girls

August 28, 2012 | by

I was one of the last to get in on the sexual revolution, letting the other virgins sprint out of the starting gate ahead of me. Though sex wasn’t formally a competitive sport, in the sixties it could feel like a relay race with men and herpes being passed along by Team America. Cosmo girls were encouraged to be players—to experiment, seduce, and manipulate ... in no particular order. For seventy-five cents, we got monthly tips on being alluring and adventurous. Our coach was Helen Gurley Brown.

In those early days of Cosmopolitan, we ripped into each new issue to find out “How You Can Become a More Likeable, Secure, and Less Jittery Person ... and Change Your Life.” You might think that, having read that, you would never need another self-help article, but Helen Gurley Brown had endless ways of tapping into our self-doubts while simultaneously giving us license to lust. Virtue was no longer a virtue. The shame connected to sex that our mothers had tattooed on our DNA was suddenly spun on its head by a woman who never had a daughter. And maybe that’s why she made so free with recipes to heat up the bedroom, renovating what was done in bed the way Better Homes and Gardens had our bedrooms. We could now have orgasms along with mismatched bedside tables.

Even if we didn’t manage to snag one of the Bachelors of the Month, we might consider other options after reading, say, “The Undiscovered Joys of Having a Chinese Lover,” “Should You be Faithful to Somebody Else’s Husband,” “Buddy-Flirting—the Bold, New Way of Having Him Notice and Like You,” “Foot Fetishes: The Trade Secrets of the Sexiest Ladies in History,” and “When He Wants You to Make the Orgy.” Married women, often overlooked, could learn “How to Get Our Husbands to Love Us Like a Mistress.”

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Reading Dogs, Biblical Judges, Myers-Briggs

July 9, 2012 | by

  • Dogs reading books.
  • Continuing the judicial book-report trend, a South Carolina woman is granted a reduced sentence on the condition she read and report on the Book of Job. She’s on it.
  • Archival audio of a 1972 panel discussion from the 92nd St. Y titled “Women Writers: Has Anything Changed?” featuring Nora Ephron, Elizabeth Janeway, and Carolyn Kizer, moderated by Helen Vendler.
  • Batman dominates the best-seller list (as well as the future box office.)
  • Data: singular or plural? The debate rages on.
  • In case you ever wondered about Anne Shirley’s Myers-Briggs personality type.
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    Nora Ephron’s Potato-Chip Legacy

    June 28, 2012 | by

    In April The Believer declared Nora Ephron “the original Tina Fey.” This week, an obituary on The Daily Beast said that she was bigger than Twain. Both superlatives gloss over the fact that Ephron’s work was widely reviled (a Village Voice review of Bewitched even argued that “the Ephrons should have to sharecrop, for all the good they've done for the culture”) and that, even for Ephron devotees, part of the charm of seeing her latest flick was wondering whether it’d be typical Burbank dung (Mixed Nuts! Michael!) or a piece of deathless Hollywood legend.

    Ephron kept dice in her purse, was willing to “teach almost anyone how to play craps at a moment’s notice,” and her writing had a gambler’s unevenness. The rambling digressiveness, along with the faint datedness, of her worldview only intensified your shock when Ephron arrived, seemingly by accident, at an incisive thought. Here she is in her 1983 roman à clef Heartburn, recounting a speech she often made while preparing Lillian Hellman’s pot roast recipe:

    I have no problem with her political persona, or with her insistence on making herself the centerpiece of most of the historical conflicts of the twentieth century; but it seems to me that she invented a romantic fantasy about her involvement with Dashiell Hammett that is every bit as unrealistic as the Doris Day movies feminists prefer to blame for society’s unrealistic notions about romance … it occurred to me as I delivered [the speech] yet another time that I had always zipped through that part of the speech as if I had somehow managed to be invulnerable to the fantasy, as if I had somehow managed to escape from or rise above it simply as a result of having figured it out. I think you often have that sense when you write—that if you can spot something in yourself and set it down on paper, you’re free of it.

    As someone who was corn-fed on her movies as a child, the passage seems eerily prophetic. Seeing Ephron gab about “unrealistic notions about romance” in 1983 is rather like hearing those reports that the young L. Ron Hubbard told friends, “If you want to get rich, you start a religion”—and it hints at the nagging contradictions of Nora Ephron’s life.

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    Good-bye, Friends; Hello, Technology!

    June 28, 2012 | by

  • Au revoir, Village Voice bookstore! You will be missed!
  • Slow readers, listen up: a new app tells you exactly how long it will take to finish a book.
  • Library patrons can now not only borrow but publish books.
  • The best Nora Ephron bookstore moments.
  • Meet “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of His Verdict,” a new Iranian video game.
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