I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron read by Nora Ephron

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.

The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood by Peter Lefcourt read by William H. Macy

L.A./Hollywood relived by a suicidal ex-husband ex-producer ex-Jew with a  screenplay.  The screenplay is  fresh off the bus from New Jersey, delivered to Charlie (post suicide) by his 21 year old nephew, Lionel. It is about Disraeli but that doesn’t matter.  The screenplay is his property, and all Charlie needs to make it (again)  in this town is one property.

The screenplay, nicknamed Ben and Bill, or Bob and Bill, somehow makes itself known to a studio,  an agent, a casting director,  who manage to get a black pro-Israel karate expert to play Disraeli, the Jew.

The characters are mimetic:

The  studio executive assistant has the unwieldy habit of walking to the nearest ladies room, locking the door, and screaming.   (It is always a mistake to actually read the screenplay.) We visit with her and her Beverly Hills therapist in intimate one hour sessions,  at which she arrives  hystericized with laughter. The therapist is straight out of DSM-V and full of noteworthy advice, relevant to any and all professional women over 35 who work among men. Cut out a small nook of rationality inside the chaos.

The director is paid in  dinar which have been blocked from leaving Yugoslavia, and doesn’t talk to the actors.  The actors are not worth characterizing.

Prepare to grow a dry grin and giggle while reading.

Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods read by Tony Roberts

The House of UnAmerican Activities Committee (on which sits Dick Nixon) is looking for Communists, and finds a few poor schmucks in Hollywood. Some Jews are inquisitioned, black-listed, and disappeared from the credits. Their words are found in screenplays by unknowns from Wyoming and Maine.

Other Jews give advise. Like Hyman Greenbaum:

Don’t buy a car until you can pay cash for it. And it should be used. You should live modestly. And don’t go to expensive restaurants unless the studio or somebody else is paying. You keep putting money in the bank. You don’t marry a co-star. You don’t buy a house until you can pay cash. You don’t ever take a job because of the location or the costar or even the director. You take jobs for good scripts, that’s all. If you can stick to that program you’ll become very rich. . . They’re going to want you to see a dentist… I’ll make them pay for it.

Good advise for any post-war generation.

The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins read by Bernadette Dunne (!)

I am reading, no hearing, a beautiful book where a photograph is described:

This is us when we are happy is not the message that Alice Roosevelt’s wedding delivers…and unlike Alice Roosevelt who continued to be an unrepentant thorn in her father’s side even after Teddy’s death, all the Curtis children never stopped believing “Chief” could do no wrong, never stopped believing Chief was the perfect father, even after absences of many years, never stopped seeking Chief’s approval.

The woman who gives this sharp, tenderized commentary on Edward Curtis, father, renegade husband and shadow-catcher is at the wheel of a car in L.A., stuck in traffic. She tells us about Edward with the same familiarity that she tells us about the shortcut (Fountain Avenue) she will take, the shortcut everyone takes, the shortcut each of the 30 million drivers currently sharing the road believes that they alone discovered.

He became, she tells us,

by disappearing from their daily lives, not a father but the myth of one, a myth they needed to believe in to survive. And despite his actions, despite all contrary evidence, they needed to sustain that system of belief even if it meant altering their memory, creating a false memory, a false identity of who their father really was. If Edward, the disappearing father was to play the good guy in their system of belief, then someone anyone had to play the villain because surely there was real unhappiness in their home in everything around them… and someone , never dad, no never him, someone else had to take the blame… the person who was too tired to cook dinner after working all day long, that other unromantic parent asleep at the stove in her flannel slippers, stressed out and exhausted: mom….”

And as she drives and thinks and turns her thoughts over, and over, she assembles the person of Edward Curtis, and how this photographer intersects with the structure of the family, how he poses and positions himself within the family so as to appear a certain way, to seem a certain way. This seeming was in fact his art.

It is no wonder that there is an aura of indeterminacy surrounding this shadow-catcher, an uncertainty arising from the distance he put between himself and his world, himself and his own century.

And with this distance comes a mystery, a puzzle which is reconnoitred but not entirely solved by the story we are told about a man who sets up a photography studio in Seattle just after the fire…

Le Mariage by Diane Johnson read by Suzanne Toren

Yes, this is about a French woman who is preparing to be married, about the dozens of chores, duties, invitations, financial arrangements, foods, realtors, contracts and miscommunications fringing the prolonged event called a ‘wedding’. But it is more about the bureaucracy of French life, the stiff protocols, the delicate rules of engagement, the intricacies of public manners and traditions, and the entire merde-ridden fantasy of a plan of the couple.

It is, in short, about the beginning of one couple at the intersection of many others, slowly or not so slowly decomposing, when this couple is located in France, at a time when Americans were even less popular than usual….

Americans weren’t popular this season… The U.S. was embarked on a rescue mission in the Balkans that was seen by the French as a barely submerged drive for world domination…

Tim, the American reporter on the brink of marrying a Parisian woman who buys things in the Pouc, the flea-market, and sells them at high prices to decorators et al., is accused of his intrusive, neo-colonialist birthplace at a party where he meets another American ex-patriate, Clara, the beautiful, vulnerable, devoted wife of a rich, vulgar Hollywood director.