She introduced Harry to Sally. She let no one sleep in Seattle. And she brought electronic communication to the world of romance with three little words: You’ve Got Mail. They say she’s known for creating strong female characters, but as a long-time friend to Nora Ephron’s words — I can’t help but think she was writing herself.
I first came to know the name Nora Ephron when my mother quite literally threw her book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman at me in a women’s restroom in Waco, Texas. My mother was going through menopause; I was belaboring my first grey hair. “Try this,” she said, as it smacked me on the back. “I don’t know if you’ll get it. It’s funny.” My mother, like Ephron, is wry.
After reading a few pages of familiar wit, I looked up this author I now liked. You know her résumé: Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle — all nominated for Academy Awards. Among scores of other accomplishments, she also wrote the immensely popular You’ve Got Mail, made a now demonized John Travolta an unforgettable angel in Michael, and adapted the first blog and an icon to the screen with Julie and Julia. Writer, director, producer, novelist, playwright, author, HuffPo blogger, and journalist, Ephron was a creative powerhouse.
I’ll always think her best film is the severely underappreciated Mixed Nuts, a 1994 Ephron-directed adaptation of a beloved French play, Le Père Noël est une ordure. She wrote it with her sister, Delia, and its good-natured brilliance attracted a host of today’s comic veterans (Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Jon Stewart, Adam Sandler, Juliette Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, Garry Shandling) — though Mixed Nuts enjoyed neither critical or commercial success.
To me, her minor works clearly sing the loudest, though she’s received mainstream accolades aplenty. Other than her notoriety, what about Nora Ephron should give every reader, movie lover, and otherwise a cause for pause? Not her three Academy Award nominations. Not her multi-field super success. Not her marriage (one of three) to Watergate world-beater and infamous Difficult Person Carl Bernstein. Not even that classic deli scene. What should we remember about Nora Ephron? Simple: her honesty.
Writers (read: people) everywhere should aspire to Ephron’s heights, but also to her authenticity. On writing for women, she was unapologetic: “I try to write parts for women,” she once said, “that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.” And complicated and interesting was Ms. Ephron — her biography could fill a hundred movies. I can’t help but think she was writing herself.
There’s no better way to honor the honest than considering the world through their eyes. Here’s the late, great Nora Ephron, on this and that:
• “[My mother] really conveyed to us that work was a great passion; that you couldn’t live without work.” — a 2010 interview with Charlie Rose
• “Reading is everything.” — I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman
• “[B]ecome a journalist, because journalists go into worlds that are not their own.” — “What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters,” Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
• “You can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”— Heartburn
• “Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”
• “American society has a remarkable ability to resist change, or to take whatever change has taken place and attempt to make it go away.”
• “Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it.”
• “If pregnancy were a book they would cut out the last two chapters.”
• “Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” — I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman
• “I serve Yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes. Why not? You live once.” — “Serial Monogamy,” The New Yorker, 2006