Wednesday, June 27, 2012


(Liz) I've been in New York all week attending the Random House sales conference.  Sales conference, as I'm sure we've mentioned before, is an all day affair, an invigorating and grueling combination of long hours and lots and lots of books.  We begin at 8 am and finish the day varies, but let's just say 10 pm.  For days on end.  Yesterday was one of those days--the thrill of sitting in the room with some of publishing's elite editors, the awareness that we were in New York (where great books are born, where the Victoria's Secret building is across the street, where Rod Stewart lives upstairs), the excitement of a new list of books.  Last night, after a day that I probably took too much for granted, I was chatting in the hotel bar with my boss and a couple of colleagues, and I received an email.  I glanced down and saw the alert that Nora Ephron had died.

No doubt you've seen the news; it's difficult to miss today.  Like most people, I appreciated Ephron's wit and works.  She was a woman who believed in standing up for women, and she chose to do so while maintaining her sense of humor.  My college roommate decorated our room with the posters for When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle; I looked at them every day for a year, and that was really the first time I ever picked up on her name.  The movie Julie & Julia was responsible for the incredible Julia Child renaissance of the last few years.

And then there was Nora Ephron the writer.  Being a book buyer, as I was while working at BookPeople, often was a job of educated risk-taking.  I don't think I ever missed so wildly as I did in underestimating the appeal of Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck. Oops.  What made yesterday's surprise announcement particularly shocking to me, though, was the knowledge that people in the room where we were sitting and discussing new titles, these people knew Nora Ephron personally.  They published her and they loved her.  As Gianna posted on Facebook yesterday, "Nora Ephron was rare; she actually mentored other women in Hollywood. She also for some reason, felt it important to remind people that women still matter after the age of 18. I know my old colleagues at RH who are gathered in NYC for conference must be lifting a glass to her right now. Cheers Nora, you will be missed."

This morning, before our morning meeting began, Random House COO Madeline McIntosh began our day by remarking on the news of Ephron's passing.  (Allow me to take a moment to digress and state how proud I am to work for a company and sales department with such strong women leaders such as Madeline.  While women are still paid on average significantly less for the same work and have to work harder for promotions, many of us on the RH sales force note the high-ranking women in our company.  It's cool.)  She said that after hearing the news last night, she searched for an appropriate Nora Ephron quote to share with us, but came up short after some furious Googling.  This morning, though, another colleague passed along one resonated.  Hearing it, I considered why I chose to enter the book business, and most probably why my colleagues--smart, funny, creative, talented people who could do any number of other things--work here too.

Nora Ephron had a talent for stating what she was thinking, and making statements that made you think.  And she had a gift for entertaining.  She was a remarkable talent and a role model.  She was a friend of my colleagues.  I'm sorry that she's gone.

This is the quote that Madeline read:

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” --Nora Ephron

1 comment:

  1. I was seated next to Nora Ephron at a Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon. It was the first year of all those damn dog books. She turned to me and said "My next book will definitely have Dog in the title."