Monday, June 26, 2017

Nora Ephron

Today marks five years since Nora Ephron passed away.  She was such an amazing writer that I wanted to share some thoughts on her.  She wrote a bit of everything during her long and successful career.  She began as a journalist.  She moved into film, giving the world When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail.  She turned the breakup of her second marriage to Bernstein into a humorous novel, Heartburn, which was also turned into a movie.  She wrote about food.  She became an essayist and blogger.  Literally, she did it all.  But I don't want this to be a type of obituary.  The New York Times already wrote one.  Rather, I want to talk about what all she's meant to me.

Without really realizing it, I first encountered Nora Ephron when I watched You've Got Mail at age 11.  Four years ago (has it really been that long? Apparently!), I wrote a post gushing over that film.  In so many ways, it's the book lover's dream of the romantic ideal.  At least, it was this book lover's epitome of the romantic ideal for so long.  I loved the way Nora used language throughout the plot.  Little did I know that this film was a remake, with an original starring James Stewart and a musical starring Judy Garland.  But it felt so original and was an excellent commentary on the burgeoning world of email.  How many friends do I have now that I first encountered online?  Too many to count.  I've met a few of them in person.  But that doesn't matter.  It's really all about the power of technology to bring people together.

Shortly after she passed, The Most of Nora Ephron came out.  This volume puts together a sampling of all of her writing, including the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally and the entirety of her novel.  I pre-ordered the book.  And like most books that I buy, it sat on my shelves for quite some time.

No matter.

The proper time to read the book appeared about ten months later.  At that time, my full-time job was sitting in my beloved papa's hospital room.  Unfortunately, the months of him being in one facility or another had taken their toll and he was no longer the best of conversationalists.  There was little else for me to do but read most of the time.  But my reading had to come in spurts because there were always so many interruptions.  So I picked up this and took it with me.  It was perfect.  There were so many short pieces, but there were also longer pieces for the evenings when I did have longer stretches to read.  And she wrote with such humor and honesty that I didn't feel overly sappy and sad.  (I've compared this period in my life to Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying because of the tragicomedy that ensued)  I was reading this book when I learned about the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall and just didn't understand.

Bottom line, she helped get me through that time.  She helped me be able to see the genuine humor in the little moments.  She helped me see the humor in the tragic moments.  She gave me a wonderful book to read.  She gave me something to aspire to.  She gave me a lot to think about.

This summer I picked up that volume again and read almost everything in it over the course of about four days.  I was again reminded of the wit and wisdom in her writing.  It inspired me to think about my own writing.  And it again inspired me to look for the humor, even in the humorless moments.  It's there.

I want to leave you with two very powerful pieces from the book, which were originally included in her 2011 book of essays, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections.  These two close out her collected volume and they've always stuck with me in their smallness and bigness:

What I Won't Miss 
Dry skin
Bad dinners like the one we went to last night
Technology in general
My closet
Washing my hair
Illness everywhere
Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism
Fox TV
The collapse of the dollar
Joe Lieberman
Clarence Thomas
Bar mitzvahs
Dead flowers
The sound of the vacuum cleaner
E-mail. I now I already said it, but I want to emphasize it.
Small print
Panels on Women in Film
Taking off makeup every night

What I Will Miss
My kids
The concept of waffles
A walk in the park
The park
Shakespeare in the Park
The bed
Reading in bed
The view out the window
Twinkle lights
Dinner at home just the two of us
Dinner with friends
Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives
Next year in Istanbul
Pride and Prejudice
The Christmas tree
Thanksgiving dinner
One for the table
The dogwood
Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan

Thanks, Ms. Ephron.  You are missed.


  1. I find it hard to believe she's been gone for so long. Her impact as an author was huge! Her sister, Hallie Ephron happens to write some pretty great thrillers. It must run in the family!

  2. There is just no one like her. In my family we refer to her as Nora, the Patron Saint of rom-coms. How we miss her.

  3. That was beautiful. I totally cried.
    Sam @ WLABB


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