I’m in mourning. The news of Nora Ephron’s death has me quite sad. I thought about her all day yesterday and she appeared in some of my dreams last night. I poured over her obituary in the New York Times, reading every word. It began on the front page and continued for a full page inside. Quite a statement for the Times and for Nora. I feel I can call her Nora rather than Ms. Ephron for she has been in our living room for years. Also on my bedside stand. And at our dining room table as my husband and I have quoted her dialogue knowing exactly which work it came from.
Nora’s sister Hallie is a dear colleague of mine. Hallie’s writing is wonderful. The entire family, beginning with their parents, are an incredible writing enclave. I am so impressed. And, a tad envious.
But why? What makes someone like Nora, her sisters and her parents so good at what they have done?
I’ve been thinking about this for Nora’s death caused me to pause. Why would it really matter? I never met her. Hallie sometimes jokes that she has met her. Yet that has nothing to do with me. Why am I sad?
I think the answer is exactly what we, each of us as writers tries to do. Touch.
We pick words that describe, tell, teach, share, embellish, color, and touch. We try to make our imaginary world alive to someone who has decided to join us. We try to suspend the distance between holding a book and being in the book. Engagement.
Nora did that brilliantly. In her writing we laugh (Crazy Salad or I Hate My Neck- for example), and we relate- well the women of the group do, I’m not sure about the men.
There are iconic scenes in her movies. Meg Ryan pounding the table as she shows how a woman could fake an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally (1989, folks!!) lives on as one of the best scenes ever. Granted it goes to Rob Reiner’s mother, but nevertheless, Nora had her fingerprints all over it.
What does all this mean? Why is it important?
I think I have the answer. It’s what each of us attempt to do and she pulled it off.
She was real. We could relate to each of her essays, movies and books. She somehow took the words we use every day, took the images that reflected our own lives, and moved us to a level that made us laugh and sigh. Why? Because we could “be” there. We understood the story. We could relate and suspend our personal moment. We could smile with an understanding, laugh with appreciation, and nod with a little bit of “been there.”
Nora, we’ll miss you. And, we’ll try as best we can to learn from you.