Published: Nov 5, 2010
Even before I read the I-didn’t-really-love-it-but-who-wants-to-piss-her-off New York Times review of Nora Ephron’s new book, I knew she had one coming out --- she has many fans among Head Butler readers and some of you have written to say, “You didn’t review I Feel Bad About My Neck, which was really terrific; are you going to review this one, which looks like more of the same?” Short answer: No. The long answer…well, got time for a story? In 1983, when she published Heartburn, a thinly disguised novel about Carl Bernstein’s infidelity and the breakup of their marriage, Nora and I were, in a New York kind of way, friends. That is, we lived in the same building, we went to some of the same parties, I had even been in the horse-drawn carriage with her and Marie Brenner and Liz Smith the night that Carl Bernstein, more than a little drunk, decided to jump onto the driver’s seat and take us for a ride, only to tip us into the street outside the St. Regis Hotel. So when I heard that Nora had written a novel, I told Edward Kosner --- editor of New York Magazine, where I was a contributing editor --- that I wanted to profile her. His response: a splendid idea. I called her. Her response: not a splendid idea. She was, she said, only planning to talk to local newspapers in the cities where she’d be promoting the book. Her exact words: “I forbid you to do this piece.” I told Ed Kosner. His exact words: “Who do you work for, her or me?” Well, now that he’d put it that way….I called Nora and told her I was doing the piece and that I’d inform everyone I called that she wasn’t participating. Of course her friends all talked --- and their contributions weren’t as warm and wonderful as I would have expected and she might have assumed. A few weeks later, New York’s readers drooled over Scenes from a Marriage. Nora never spoke to me again. Twenty-plus years passed. Nora, the piece, the bad feeling --- the episode faded for me. Then we ran into one another at the Aspen Ideas Festival. In less than a second, we had a moment out of a silent movie. (Imagine the subtitles, please.) Nora jerked back, horrified. Me: Really? No statute of limitations? Nora: No, never. So, given our history, I’m not rushing to review I Remember Nothing. But if one of you wants to do a Guest Butler stint, please raise your hand.