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Nora Ephron’s ‘classic of literary revenge’ turns 40
One of the beloved writer Nora Ephron’s most well-known creations — along with iconic films such as When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle — is her 1983 comic novel, Heartburn. Book publisher Vintage is celebrating its 40th birthday this month by releasing an anniversary edition featuring a new, very brief foreword by actor and foodie Stanley Tucci, who compares the book to Ephron herself: “smart, witty, sensitive, dark and hopeful.”
Famously inspired by the late author’s own disastrous marriage to Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, the story is about Washington, D.C.-based food writer Rachel Samstat, who’s heavily pregnant when she learns that her political journalist husband is cheating on her (Bernstein had an affair when Ephron was pregnant with their second child). The Washington Post has described it as “a classic of literary revenge.”
Ephron also included recipes throughout the book — among them a simple salad dressing that actress Olivia Wilde recently made famous on social media (Vanity Fair explains the backstory). Meryl Streep, who played Rachel in the 1986 movie version with Jack Nicholson, narrates the audiobook.
Page to screen
Spring brings some notable TV series inspired by books, including Lucky Hank, which premiered March 19 on AMC. Loosely based on Richard Russo’s 1997 novel Straight Man, it stars Bob Odenkirk as the head of an unimpressive Pennsylvania university’s English Department who’s wrestling with a midlife crisis.
Odenkirk’s always a treat to watch, but I’m particularly interested in checking out Tiny Beautiful Things on Hulu (all eight episodes will be released on April 7). The series is adapted from the memoir/self-help book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed, an advice columnist known as Dear Sugar and author of the best-selling 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon). The new show stars Kathryn Hahn as a writer with loads of personal problems who nonetheless tries her darndest to offer wisdom and compassion to others.
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Pick of the week: ‘Benjamin Banneker and Us’
Rachel Jamison Webster, who is white and works as a creative writing professor at Northwestern University, discovered at a family reunion in 2016 that she’s related to Benjamin Banneker, the esteemed African American mathematician, almanac author and astronomer who was hired to help survey the District of Columbia (and famously wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson imploring him to apply his ideas of liberty to enslaved peoples).
Webster’s new book, Benjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family (March 21), explores that ancestral story, including Banneker’s fascinating life.
When I emailed the author to ask how it felt to discover that she had a connection to this remarkable man, she wrote, “I was extraordinarily proud and humbled.” She added that she didn’t feel surprised to learn that she had African American roots, but rather “relieved, the way you feel when something that’s been denied is finally acknowledged and put into alignment.”
New in historical fiction
Beyond That, the Sea, by Laura Spence-Ash (March 21), is a moving debut novel about a young English girl, Beatrix, who is sent by her working-class London parents across the Atlantic to live with a wealthy New England family for safety during the bombing raids of World War II. Beatrix grows up between these two worlds, her relationships — including with her two surrogate brothers — and identity evolving through the years.
In case you missed it: Picks of the week (March 14 Edition)
Three unputdownable novels are among the top new releases for fiction lovers:
48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates offers a seriously unreliable narrator in a gripping story that’s told through the eyes of a troubled woman named Gigi, whose beautiful younger sister, Marguerite, has gone missing and is presumed dead. We learn more about Gigi’s disturbed mind as she unspools clues to her sister’s fate. It’s a fast, absorbing read.
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano. The author of the 2020 bestseller Dear Edward (now a TV series on Apple TV+) introduces us to two young people, Julia and William, who fall in love and marry. Julia and her three sisters embrace William, but as time passes his depression creates a rift and their paths diverge. This one’s a must if you’re looking to sink into an emotionally complex family story. It'll be big: Oprah has just chosen it as her 100th book club pick.
I Will Find You by Harlan Coben. A classic Coben tale: fast-paced and twisty, and probably already on its way to a TV adaptation, like so many of his books. David Burroughs is a broken man serving a life sentence for the murder of his son — which he vehemently denies. When he finds out the boy may be alive, it sounds impossible, but he plots a daring escape from prison to find the truth.
Check out our Members Only Access interview with Coben, who discusses who'd play him in the movie of his life, how he once found writing inspiration during Uber rides, and more.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward: A love affair to remember
We heard about Paul Newman’s intense passion for Joanne Woodward, now 93, in his recent posthumous memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, edited by David Rosenthal. Newman, who passed away in 2008 and was married to Woodward for 50 (sometimes rocky) years, revealed, among other things, that “Joanne gave birth to a sexual creature. ... We left a trail of lust all over the place.”
Fans wanting to learn more about the stars’ romantic partnership can look forward to the recently announced October release of Head Over Heels: A Love Affair in Words and Pictures. It features photos of the couple compiled by their daughter Melissa Newman, 61, who tells us that she’s always been struck by “the inexorability” of her parents’ relationship: “You catch the gestures and the looks in some of the photos that speak of such lovely intimacy. … They were tempestuous, but absolutely hitched, and they had such fun together.”
If that’s not enough, you can actually buy Woodward’s wedding dress, among some 300 other items owned by the pair — including memorabilia from their films, as well as art and furniture from their Connecticut home — to be sold by Sotheby’s in a series of auctions starting in June.