Heartburn

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Be the Heroine , Not the Victim

Nora Ephron (1941 -2012) wrote the scripts for “When Harry Met Sally” (1989), “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), and”You’ve Got Mail” (1998). I love these films, and I’ve seen them so many times I can say the lines along with the characters. Ephron’s New York is a vibrant, colorful place full of native and transplanted New Yorkers who adore the city, from sidewalk trash pickup to astounding views from the tallest skyscrapers.

I’ve seen the movie version of “Heartburn” (1986). Meryl Streep is a true wonder – remember “Sophie’s Choice” (1982)? And I truly forgot she wasn’t really Julia Child in “Julie & Julia” (2009). I didn’t like the movie version of “Heartburn,” though – and I never read the 1982 book.

I did like the Audible of “Heartburn” very much. I remember that “Heartburn” was reviewed by a lot of critics as whiny and self absorbed when it was published 31 years ago, but today, it is snarkily amusing and a wry slice of the 80’s. There’s something sad and funny about a woman who renovates the couple’s several homes, a cook book author with her own cooking show, who complains about being broke all the time – and is clueless that her feckless husband is carrying on an affair with the money going to expensive trips and gifts to his mistress. When Rachel Samstat finally looses it, she does it with memorable flare.

Ephron wrote “Heartburn” after a bitter end to her marriage to the philandering Carl Bernstein. Yes, the Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward and a whistleblower code named “Deep Throat” exposed the Watergate crimes and brought down Richard M. Nixon’s presidency. Bernstein referred to the whistleblower as “MF”, and Ephron called her fictional wandering spouse “Mark Feldman.” In 2005, the FBI agent who leaked information to Bernstein went public – Mark Felt. Ephron knew who Bernstein’s informant was. Listening to “Heartburn,” I wondered if she was covertly pointing at Felt.

Ephron turned what was a hushed scandal that had Washington DC society whispering its pity for her into a best selling book and a major motion picture. Now it’s a wonderful Audible book, performed by Streep – who makes you forget she’s not actually Rachel Samstat/Nora Ephron in the first five minutes.

The title of this review is an edited quote from a commencement speech Ephron gave at Wellesley in 1996. She said, “Above all else, be the heroine of your life , not the victim.” That’s what Ephron did with “Heartburn.”

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