The Outbreak

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

The Outbreak

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

The Outbreak
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 13 1999 1:36 PM

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Gosh, I don’t know. I’m a big fan of James Salter’s. Did you ever read A Sport and a Pastime? It’s a fantastic novel, fantastic, and I wonder if anyone even knows about it. Last night, while wasting time in the usual online fashion, I came across a chance to vote for the novel of the century, from a list of ten chosen by other people wasting time in the usual online fashion, and it certainly didn’t include A Sport and a Pastime, which it should have. Instead, Gone With the Wind was on the list. Of course, I loved Gone With the Wind. And it certainly fits the definition of literature that Salter put forth —"Literature … is really only writing that never stops being read"—for which definition alone I salute him. The point is, I liked the Salter piece, even though it left me feeling absolutely helpless. I mean, what am I to do? Should I finally read Plato? Should I give more money to the public library? Should I stop making movies? No, yes, and no; so much for that. And by the way, I don’t believe for one second that Shakespeare made up one out of twelve of the words he used. Where do statistics like that come from? I mean, just because a word appears for the first time in a book doesn’t mean the author invented it. (Did you read the book about the convicted murderer who worked on the Oxford English Dictionary? It’s amazing.)

Advertisement

I am berserk about The Sopranos, as is my husband. Nick’s mother, in fact, could certainly have been the inspiration for Livia Soprano.

I do not find the mosquito spraying quaint. Now that I am in the movie business, I see everything as the beginning of a bad movie, and this one ends with the population of Queens dying before a cure is found. One of the things I always find so wonderful about life in New York is how oblivious we tend to be to things like the possibility of natural disasters, but the encephalitis thing made me happy to be leaving town for Los Angeles, where there are only earthquakes to worry about.

What is a Moebius strip?

Kurt Andersen was architecture critic for Time, co-founder of Spy, and editor of New York magazine. He now writes for The New Yorker, and his best-selling first novel, Turn of the Century, was published in May (click here to buy it). Nora Ephron is a screenwriter and director. Her films include Sleepless in Seattle, Michael and, most recently, You’ve Got Mail.