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Thursday, January 13, 2011
NOTE: I had this mostly written before I decided I was going to write about all the books I read in 2010 - don't worry, they won't all be this long.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Rachel Samsat, cookbook author, wit, public television personality, pregnant mother of a toddler, and nice Jewish girl from New York is married to Mark Feldman, newspaper columnist, political reporter, father of her children, and philanderer from Washington DC. While hugely pregnant with their second child, Rachel finds out about the affair Mark is having with her former friend (Thelma Rice, that tall bitch), and this is the story of what happens after that.

It’s written in a conversational style that I found appealing, but something about it struck me as JUST SO WEIRD. I tried to put my finger on what it was - the first person narration is like she’s relating the story long after it happened, but that was fun and fine and not weird. I finally decided that it was the same thing I noticed when reading Wallflower at the Orgy: her perspective is from that elastic time in the 70s when things were changing so fast for women. (Although published in the early 80s, the book rests in the cradle of the 70s.) Feminism is going on! But the middle-class worldview is still resolutely tied to the idea that marriage, children, and a nice house (for dinner parties!) is the primary goal for women. For the record, I think husbands, children, and houses for dinner parties can all be wonderful things, but they shouldn’t be a requirement - I’m glad that the era we live in now is a little more flexible on how and when or even if they’re acquired. Anyway, that’s the interesting part to me, here - the in-betweeness of it. Rachel is smart, funny, successful on her own, but also a scorned woman who is socially vulnerable. There’ve been women like this since the dawn of time - what differs is how they’re received into the larger culture. I know there are still wide swathes of American culture (both high and low) where whether or not you’re married means a lot, but (and maybe I’m being willfully naive) it seems like the presence or absence of a wedding ring is not the big deal it used to be.

Other things:

1) It is widely assumed that this novel is based in large part on Ephron’s breakup with Washington journalist Carl Bernstein. Since he left her for another woman when she was pregnant with their second child, this seems like a reasonable assumption.

2) lots of people on Goodreads read it as a straight up divorce-style chick lit novel. When you look at the cover for the latest edition, it’s easy to see why!

3) there are recipes throughout.

4) it’s funny, and there is an armed robbery.

5) check out these other covers - I think I like the one with the parsley and the devil the best, although either of the old ones are better than the new one. 

5 comments on "Heartburn"
  1. I read the parsley-devil edition. I remember at the time loving the book and being heartbroken that Carl Bernstein could be such a cad. I might have to re-read this! Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Read it again! She's got a new collection of essays out now - have you seen it? (I'm waiting for my copy to come through the library.) I've still got some vintage Ephron to read, but I feel like I need to space it out a little bit.

    Have you seen the movie Heartburn? I haven't yet.

  3. I am going to reserve this right now. I saw the movie so long ago it should be safe, as in it won't be ruined because I don't really remember it.

  4. I'll be interested to hear what you think about it. As for me, I'm going to make sure I've added Heartburn to my netflix queue.

  5. I went and bought it today from Wallace Books and I am looking forward to the reading of it very much.


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