There is no question that there is a story here, about an otherwise nice city and an otherwise nice cop who is married to a rather understanding Englishwoman. But it is not a story about the city and the cop and the Englishwoman in the 1960s.
It is not enough to reference an occasional Communist, to talk about Reds, or to look for a microdot. Crimes, too, need to be referenced with other crimes on the street at the time. To write about a cop in the sixties is not to write about a cop in 2011, without the cell phone , the laptop and the extra 30 pounds. Something must be also be said about what people who the cop doesn’t know assume, believe, and feel. What are the truisms of 1967? What are the common sense things that “everybody” knows so well that nobody needs to say anything about? Still yet, what are the things that nobody talks about and everybody sort of knows? Things not spoken earmark an era.
Unfortunately, the sixties just seem to get in the way of this story. The characters, however, are strong and sturdy types and deserve a place in 21st century Connecticut or New York or London. As do the criminals, and the sexual deviances.
Although I didn’t see her face, I knew that the woman in the coloring chair was beautiful. It wasn’t just because she had long, lush, gorgeous hair, but because she was tearing out a page of WWD, where she had eyed another beautiful woman with long hair. And beautiful women look at beautiful women.
“Can I see?” I asked. And then she turned in the chair and I saw a Vogue model, circa 1976, sans huge hat and cigarette holder. But she was still beautiful, sitting there having her hair colored and pointing to the woman in the ad with the big sunglasses and the thick brown hair, saying: “that’s not Jackie Kennedy but it looks like Jackie Kennedy. I’ve always loved that look.”
And then she told me that not only was Jackie Kennedy beautiful but she was a nice person. She knew this because she sat across from Jackie Kennedy’s chair at Kenneth’s in the city, which is where Jackie had her hair done when Jackie had her hair done. The beautiful woman in the coloring chair had worked for Glamour and Vogue for 25 years, and if we were still in NYC and one of us had been Nora Ephron then one of us might have discovered that her husband was having an affair…. But we neither of us were Nora, and this was not NY, and Jackie was dead.
Nora Ephron is writing about just this generation of women, who lived and worked and counted in NYC, and who are now oldish, or dead. Nora Ephron is not dead. But she is forgetting things, and what she remembers is not obvious. She remembers going to an anti-Vietnam protest but not getting to it because she spent the weekend in the hotel room having sex, she remembers trying to find the New York Post building, and getting lost on the George Washington Bridge, and not deciding to get a divorce, and not going to the front during the 1973 war in Israel, and not knowing anything, and believing in print. She remembers consciousness-raising meetings in the 60s and 70s with women who took themselves much too seriously, and she remembers writing scripts that she thought were funny that weren’t funny enough.