These are some of the things I know

I Remember Nothing and other reflections
by Nora Ephron

I wasn’t planning to read this. I visited my good friend H last weekend and saw it on her shelf and remembered H had said good things about it. So I read it.

In the light of Ephron’s very recent death, it was horribly poignant to read her memoir that begins with thoughts on memory loss and ends with thoughts on cancer, but in-between there is a charming, funny story of a life lived fully and happily.

Not one to be entirely conventional, Ephron tells her story in a series of essays. Some are very much memoir – how she began her career in journalism, for instance, an intriguing study in the sexism of the 1960s – while some are more rants on a topic – online Scrabble, the pointlessness of certain diets, e-mail – and others are really anecdotes. Which were perhaps my favourite bits:

“This is one of the things that drives me absolutely crazy when I see movies that take place in the fifties and early sixties: people are always saying ‘fuck’ in them. Trust me, no-one threw that word around then the way they do now. I’ll tell you something else: they didn’t drink wine then. Nobody knew about wine then. I mean, someone did obviously, but most people drank hard liquor all the way through dinner…These are some of the things I know, and they’re entirely useless and take up way too much space in my brain.”

Ephron’s writing style belies her early days in magazine feature writing. It’s a friendly, chatty style that drops in facts and cleverness without appearing to do so. Not that she hadn’t moved with the times. It did not feel like the writing of an “old person” at all:

“Alcoholic parents are so confusing. They’re your parents, so you love them; but they’re drunks, so you hate them. But you love them. But you hate them.”

There are some sweet quirks of the book. Three or four recipes are included, for example. Though after the chapter about how her friends don’t like her cooking it may or may not be worth following said recipes. There are also some lists. Mostly very funny ones but, on a bittersweet note, the book ends with “What I won’t miss” and “What I will miss”. However, my favourite part was the essay on journalism:

“It was exciting in its own self-absorbed way, which is very much the essence of journalism: you truly come to believe that you are living in the center of the universe and that the world out there is on tenterhooks waiting for the next copy of whatever publication you work at.”

Ephron comes across as a wonderful, astute, funny woman who was well loved and had lived well. What more could anyone want?

First published in the US in 2010 by Alfred A Knopf, an imprint of Transworld Publishers.