Nora Sticks Her Neck Out: The Author Brings Her Philosophy of Divorce

nora ephron2 Nora Sticks Her Neck Out: The Author Brings Her Philosophy of DivorceNora Ephron has many unanswered questions. Is this the beginning of the end? And will they go away or is it like the plague? The director of Julie and Julia adjusted her black booted ankle, pulling it closer to the seat of the white tufted couch in her guest living room. “You know the science fiction ending where the world has only bugs left? Is this it? And why do they say crazy as a bedbug? They seem to know exactly what they’re doing.” Ms. Ephron sat placidly in the living room of the guest apartment several floors below the one she shares with husband Nick Pileggi.

She hasn’t thought about bedbugs today, though she did dream about them recently. “Don’t you think everyone has had a dream about bedbugs?” She asked. What was her dream? “That we had one! I don’t remember anything else except that I woke up and said, ‘I dreamed we had bedbugs,’ and Nick said, ‘Of course you did,’ and that was the end of it.”

On Tuesday, her new memoir, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, hit bookstores, Kindles and iPads everywhere. “After I Feel Bad About My Neck I thought I should definitely write something about the fact that I’m losing it. And I had the title, which is often the way I start things.” The book runs the gamut, recounting Ms. Ephron’s frustrations with table service (“Sea salt used to be known as kosher salt, but that’s not an upscale enough name for it anymore. Sea salt comes in an itty-bitty dish. You always spill it trying to move it from the dish to the food on your plate, but that’s the least of it”), the writer’s early days as a fact-checker at Newsweek and the short-lived glory of having her own eponymous meatloaf at the Monkey Bar.

Ms. Ephron once recalled a maxim of her mother, the writer Phoebe Ephron: “Everything is copy.” Ephron amends the aphorism, adding her own view that “you must absolutely never write about a marriage until it ends, and then …” She shrugged, her neatly coiffed mahogany-colored mop resembling a chicly shorn Prince Valiant, but with more layers. (“I’m a big believer in getting your hair done. I think for older people it’s about the same effect as going to a shrink,” she said.)

After her 1979 divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein, Ms. Ephron wrote the best-selling roman à clef, Heartburn, about the dissolution of her marriage. The book, which was later made into a movie with Meryl Streep, directed by Mike Nichols, spurred an enormous response from readers. “When I did Heartburn I got a huge amount of mail from women in the middle of divorces who were really nuts because they didn’t have the money to fight for anything: custody, child support, and it was really fascinating.”

On Monday, the Huffington Post launched a divorce vertical, a suggestion the twice-divorced Ms. Ephron made to her friend Arianna Huffington one morning over breakfast in East Hampton. “I was staying with her in Long Island,” Ms. Huffington told The Observer, “and me and Alessandra Stanley took a walk on the beach and, as often happens with divorced people, we were talking about divorce, and then we got back to Nora’s and sat down for breakfast and Nora said, ‘I think you should have a divorce vertical,’ so I jumped on it immediately.”

Ms. Ephron confirmed, “You have to be very careful saying anything like that to her [Arianna] because the next thing you know it’s happened!”

Ms. Huffington, who is also divorced, said the idea resonated with her for that reason. “How do you parent after divorce was an interest of mine. Two years ago, I wrote a post from Greece about vacationing with my children and my ex-husband and I got a tremendous response.”

The vertical will be edited by Willow Bay, a television journalist who has launched several verticals for the Huffington Post. “The founding philosophy for the page,” she told The Observer, “was Nora’s maxim that marriage comes and goes but divorce is forever.” An excerpt from Ms. Ephron’s new book, headlined “The Big D,” was the lead post for the inauguration of the site. The chapter chronicles Ms. Ephron’s own divorce from Mr. Bernstein.

The site’s founding mantra is a line Ms. Ephron reiterated to The Observer. “I completely believe that divorce is a permanent state, unlike marriage. When they ask you to identify yourself on the census form, and it’s single or married, there’s nothing that really describes what I was, which is divorced and married. Married and divorced, in ascending order, depending on what day of the week it was.”

Ms. Ephron quiets any misapprehensions that she will be spending all day long editing the divorce testimonials of Huffington Post bloggers. “Oh, God no. Are you kidding? You thought I was going to work like those friends of mine who are there 14 hours a day? No, no, no, I get to be called something like Founding Editor. All I have to do is give them ideas every so often.”

Ms. Ephron has always historically been a technological trailblazer for her age group. Her 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail was one of the first films to memorialize email as a central plot device. She has an iPhone, an iPad (her 2011 resolution is to watch movies on her iPad through her Netflix account), a Kindle, a blog and a Facebook account, though she admits, “I don’t really have any friends.”

Ms. Ephron looked at Mr. Pileggi’s crime library lining the entire far wall. “It’s all Mafia,” she later explained; an entire shelf is devoted to volumes on Al Capone, and on the above shelf, the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Mafia and Mafia for Dummies lean next to each other.

“It was such a joke,” she said, “when we first starting losing our memories. I remember someone we were at dinner with calling their assistant to look up the answer on Google, and I had this idea that someday very rich people would have a person called The Google and they would go into the other room and Google it. It never occurred to me that we would have Google in our hands.”

cmalle@observer.com