Everything is Copy

Last weekend I read Nora Ephron’s slim volume of essays, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” which was given to me by my boss.

I enjoyed these essays – there’s a lot to like here, they’re funny and accessible, and intimate – but as I read them I became conscious of not wanting my own essays to ever sound like them. Nora Ephron was very successful and very rich. While I’m glad she made a ton of money from her work, at times the privilege in these essays is so astounding I had roll my eyes and say to myself, “Oh yes, poor you, Nora Ephron. Poor you.” Good grief. She doesn’t claim to be anything other than privileged, though, so there’s that.

I believe my boss’s primary motivation for giving me this book was for Nora Ephron’s insights on writing, particularly, “Everything is copy.” Ephron elaborates, after some reflection:

I now believe that what my mother meant when she said “Everything is copy” is this: When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you; but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become the hero rather than the victim of the joke.

On the other hand, she concedes that perhaps her mother may merely have meant, “Everything is copy.” I like both ways of looking at it.

But the best part of the book for me was when I came across her view on writing nonfiction over fiction:

I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing.

That’s exactly how I feel about it.

What do you think?

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