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Nora Ephron (Reuters)
Nora Ephron (Reuters)

The Daily Review, Mon., Nov. 22

Past her prime, Ephron channels grumpy Andy Rooney Add to ...

Nora Ephron's latest confessional, I Remember Nothing, reads like Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell's nursing-home blog.

For those born after 1989, Ephron had another gig before she wrote When Harry Met Sally; Ephron the journalist once toiled in the print media, which gave her a unique vantage point to survey the madness in her midst.

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But now this writer, screenwriter and director has much less to say to us than she did in her caustic prime, when she wrote for the New York Post and Esquire.

Ephron attributes this lack of material to a bad memory in the title essay, I Remember Nothing. "On some level," she writes, "my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can't remember, who can?"

Yet the New Yorker's absentminded musings just don't register in her new book. I also found it difficult to identify with her Upper East Side matron persona in her previous book, I Feel Bad About My Neck.

Ephron's recent lacklustre panel appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher reflects the author's haughty indifference to her middle-class audience. While feisty filmmaker Michael Moore called down the new U.S. policy bid to up the retirement age to 69, Ephron merely looked bored. But given this latest book, maybe Ephron, 69, supports the new retirement age.

Vintage Ephron - Scribble Scribble and Crazy Salad - were an inspiration when I first discovered her in the 1980s. I was a hapless twentysomething checking mink coats at Tiffany's Steak and Seafood on Toronto's airport strip.

No more. Ephron simply cannot summon the same withering insight she employed from her precarious perch on the margins in Wallflower at the Orgy.

The essays in I Remember Nothing are uneven. Pentimento, My Life as an Heiress and Journalism: A Love Story were readable contributions yet much of the other material, culled from her Huffington Post blog, is superfluous.

Ephron brazenly serves up vapid lists and bland asides about chicken soup. The $25.95 price tag for this 137-pager means budget-conscious readers are sure to feel cheated.

But the ever-transparent Ephron supplies the answer to why there aren't more essays in her collection. She's addicted to Scrabble Blitz and she's a procrastinator.

Only Ephron's most ardent fans, those same patient people who sat through You've Got Mail, will forgive her for padding her bra. After all, she did write the very funny A Few Words About Breasts in her prime.

Yet her once razor-sharp wit now strays into grumpy Andy Rooney territory. Ephron is irascible and shallow, and occasionally verges on self-parody when she dedicates an entire essay to an eponymous meat loaf.

Much of Ephron's petulant kvetching about expensive restaurants and inconsiderate friends appears Marie Antoinette-ish. I also found it hard to swallow Ephron's gripes about annoying e-mail and erratic Internet experts while she consulted Google to bolster her ailing memory.

Nora Ephron is no longer the Wallflower at the Orgy. And that's a shame. Popular girls - especially if they pen mainstream romantic comedies - are just not as interesting to read.

Patricia Dawn Robertson is a writer living in Wakaw, Sask.

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