I liked some of Nora Ephron's work over the years, but The New York Times went overboard in considering her a major writer and director worthy of front-page attention. Ephron's death of leukemia brought the full Times attention Wednesday, although the modesty of her literary and film efforts was apparent in the overly long obituary by Charles McGrath.
Times leads are among the worst in journalism, plagued by twisting subordinate clauses and parenthetical phrases encased in parentheses, and McGrath's convoluted first paragraph followed the Times obit-speak style, including a gratuitious and awkward comparison of Ephron and Dorothy Parker. Ephron, McGrath claimed, was a modern-day Parker, only, according to McGrath, some people thought Ephron smarter and funnier. What people? None, except for in McGrath's imagination.
Janet Maslin, in a sidebar, was more honest in assessing Ephron's career, although she too had to bring up Dorothy Parker. If Ephron was a good as the Times claimed, couldn't her work stand on its own without Parker?
While listing good films, if hardly classics, like "Sleepless in Seattle," that Ephron directed, the Times couldn't avoid her long string of bombs, such as a remake of TV's "Bewitched." "Julia and Julie," with Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as someone who tried all of Julia's recipes, drew critical acclaim, although I found it one of the worst movies I'd ever seen.
New York's cloistered media/literary world continued its boosting of Ephron, with one columnist saying something along the lines that her book parties were more memorable than the books themselves. A telling comment.
Ephron definitely was a gifted writer, film director and apparently, New York hostess. Her few collections of essays, a pop novel made into a movie and a handful of amusing, popular films don't place her among the cultural greats.