NORA EPHRON (1941-2012)

Screenwriter and memoirist Nora Ephron passed away yesterday at the age of seventy-one. The cause of death was reported as leukemia.

A segment on WABC-TV’s Nightline last night called Nora Ephron “the Aaron Sorkin of romantic comedy.” I liked that.

Ephron had a connection to the District. She was married for some years to D.C.-native and Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (who, along with fellow journalist Bob Woodward, broke the Watergate scandal).


Horton the Housecat

I once wrote an epic poem whose protagonist was one of my mother’s cats. To allay my boredom during downtime at work I began to pair parts of the poem with thumbnail sketches. The project was longer than a comic strip but shorter than a graphic novel. I had a friend at the time who was literary agent and she told me that if I submitted the work to her as a manuscript that she would try to sell it to a publisher as a children’s book.

Before events ever got that far, I had to change the name of the cat: Horton was already taken by an elephant. Then, I was told the cat had to be fat. Then, I was told Horton’s family needed a father. Then, I had to change the text from metered, rhyming poetry to prose. Then, I had to hand over the illustration duties to somebody who had a track record as a commercial artist. Then, I no longer recognized the product. After half a dozen editors pronounced the product dead on arrival, it did not bother me in the slightest when the agent pulled the plug on the project. I no longer viewed the book as being my own.


It was not until I found the book on a cart being given away by my local library to make room for new titles that I even knew there was such a thing as The New York Times Book of Houseplants.  The copyright indicates a publication date of 1973. Its author Joan Lee Faust was, inter alia, the Garden Editor at the Times. The Garden Editor! What a concept.

The description in the book for the snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) called the plant “a favorite of yesteryear” even back in the nineteen-seventies. I keep several pots full of them. The text indicates that: “[m]ature plants in sunny rooms often send up spikes of white blooms.”  This spring, mine did; it was awesome.


for the Ninety-nine Percent