When I first heard that Nora Ephron had lost her battle with leukemia Tuesday evening (June 26th), I immediately said, “No, that’s impossible”. At the age of 71, the world lost a talent much too soon. Her quick wit, blunt observations and humorous, yet spot-on observations will be terribly missed.
Like many of you, growing up as a young girl, maturing into a woman, her films served as guideposts in many ways – in my teens – “Can men and women ever truly be friends?” and “Is true love really possible or must we settle?” in my early twenties – “Was meeting someone online really a good idea?” and lastly, in one of my now favorite films as I moved into my thirties, “Why not fall in love with what you’re passionate about and spend your energy accomplishing your goals instead of chasing what you can’t control – men, marriage, children, etc?”
I may be looking through the lens of my own life when I interpret her films, but that’s what was so amazing about Nora Ephron; she was willing to speak honestly about life’s realities – the good and the bad, the hopeful and the disappointing and make you laugh while you were diligently wrestling with the questions she had presented.
By now you’ve heard all sorts of details about her life – her second marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, their divorce, her many essays, films, productions and books, her 25 year marriage to Nicholas Pileggi, her love for food, her dislike for technology and so much more, so what I’d like to leave you with is a list of some of her most talked about and successful books, a few visuals from her most well-known films and a some of my favorite quotes found from interviews, the pages of her books and speeches.
From her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, which I highly recommend and would suggest listening to the audiotape version as Nora is the narrator – it is just fabulous:
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
On Money and Creative Incentive, in My Life as an Heiress:
“I was extremely lucky not to have ever inherited real money, because I might not have finished writing ‘When Harry Met Sally…,’ which changed my life.”
On Work (particularly writing)
Nora Ephron speaking about her mother (screenwriter Phoebe Ephron) and the most important lesson she taught her about work:
“[She] really conveyed to us that work was a great passion; that you couldn’t live without work. When you were asked what you were going to be when you grow up, the question was answered in terms of work—not in terms of motherhood or being married—it was what are you going to do.”
On Wearing a Bikini:
From I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman:
“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”
On Having Children:
From I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”—
On Finding Love Again:
In I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman:
“Why hadn’t I realized how much of what I thought of as love was simply my own highly developed gift for making lemonade? What failure of imagination had caused me to forget that life was full of other possibilities, including the possibility that eventually I would fall in love again?”
“To state the obvious, romantic comedies have to be funny and they have to be romantic. But one of the most important things, for me anyway, is that they be about two strong people finding their way to love.”
On Women and Feminism
“This is the season when a clutch of successful women — who have it all — give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can’t have it all. Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.” – From Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesly College, her alma mater.
“I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.”
“One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don’t take it personally, but listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn’t serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you — whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.”— ’96 Wellesley commencement address
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”— ’96 Wellesley commencement address
We will all miss you Nora. Thank you for showing us how to be brave.