Monday, July 2, 2012

Nora Ephron had a license to be ridiculous

What did Nora Ephron know that Ann Curry didn’t know? In the words of Marilyn Monroe, she knew it’s better to be utterly ridiculous than to be utterly boring.
When I heard Nora Ephron died last week, I reread her book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” as my personal tribute to a woman I never knew but loved dearly. She was a Jewish lady who lived in an apartment building in New York and wrote wonderful, funny stories. I am a goy who lives in the middle of Texas and writes historical fiction. But she felt like a sister or a best friend.
I laughed until I cried just as I did the first two times I read that book. Nora didn’t age gracefully. She aged kicking and screaming and making jokes. Let’s hope she died that way.
She wrote about everyday things like her neck, her purse, her hair, her apartment building, her life. I wondered whether she wrote about her last years or her battle with cancer. If she did, I want to read it. I loved everything she wrote because she had such insight into the human condition.
Why, you say, bring Ann Curry into this? Why bring up that poor woman who was fired recently from NBC’s Today show — that poor woman who was made to go on national television and debase herself by saying goodbye. All of us felt her pain. Admitting you’re no longer in vogue is a humiliating experience but to do it on television is unthinkable.
I brought her up because she didn’t know what Nora Ephron knew. She didn’t know that it’s better to be ridiculous than to be boring. Ann Curry is sweet and sincere and competent and that’s the problem. If she’d been a bit more outrageous, she’d still be in.
Nora Ephron highlighted the ridiculous like no one else. Like the woman who travels all the way across the country to look for a man she heard on a call-in talk radio program. The couple who love each other but are afraid to be intimate except on the phone late at night watching the same TV show. The married lady who writes about her failing relationship and divorce and throws in a few recipes to boot because things may be going to hell in a hand basket but by God, we all need to eat and we might as well eat something that’s good.
We’re all slightly ridiculous, so why not admit it? Nora Ephron did and her admission gave us so much joy.

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