How sorry we were to hear of the passing of the great Nora Ephron last week. Although probably best known for romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, she was also an accomplished journalist and author, social commentator and essayist. Elaine Showalter described her writings as ‘guidelines to inventing la vida feminista’, and she was indeed a leading light – that rarest of breeds, a woman directing films in Hollywood.
I was delighted to read that as a child, she would be brought out for her parents’ (both screenwriters) boozy soirees to meet the assembled guests, one of whom was Dorothy Parker. Who better for a young writer to aspire to?!
Graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Political Science, she jumped into the world of journalism and became a columnist for the New York Post, Esquire and New York Magazine. Her first feature film was Silkwood, directed by her friend Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep, who went on to star in several later films penned by Ephron. Here’s Nora on Meryl.
Not afraid of displaying her feminist credentials for all to see, the debut issue of Ms. Magazine in 1972 included her name along with 50 others in a petition entitled “We Have Had Abortions”. The list included Gloria Steinem, Billy Jean King, Susan Sontag and Anaïs Nin. A daring move at the time, it wasn’t until the following year that Roe vs. Wade legalised abortion in the US.
Her writing was a delight, no more so evident in her essays, collected in volumes including Crazy Salad (1975), I Feel Bad About My Neck (2006) and I Remember Nothing (2010). Here’s just a small sample of her musings.
On the play she wrote with her sister: “It’s sort of “The Vagina Monologues” but without the vaginas.”
On religion: “You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it.”
On divorce: “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.”
On people: “I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.”
At the 1996 Wellsley College commencement address: “The Wonderbra is not a step forward for women. Nothing that hurts that much is a step forward for women.”
On parenting: “When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”
On marriage: “Whenever I get married, I start buying Gourmet magazine. I think of it as my own personal bride’s disease.”
On death: “When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.”
Nora Ephron (1941 – 2012)