Saturday, 10 August 2013


When I heard the news about Nora Ephron's death – twice, as it happened. Once last night as I went to bed when a blog was posted by her good friend, columnist Liz Smith: 'I won’t say, “Rest in peace, Nora” – I will just ask “What the hell will we do without you?”' and then refuted via a statement from her publisher saying only that Ephron was 'very ill'. And then again, a second, more final time, when I woke up at 5.30 this morning (bloody birds) and logged on to twitter to find that Ephron had indeed passed in the night – I felt like I'd lost a friend.

Nora Ephron, screenwriter, genius, woman who said what we were all thinking, has died aged 71 of pneumonia brought on by leukaemia. And I, 30 years her junior, 3,000 miles away, feel like a friend has died.

Melodramatic, much. But I know I'm not alone. 

The eulogies from her real friends – and it seems she had very, very many have been pouring in. And to a man/woman they have said the same thing: Nora told it straight, she was funny, clever, acerbic, she took no prisoners. Above all, she was honest and it was that honesty that made generations of women (scratch that, generations of people, I know as many men who can quote verbatim from When Harry Met Sally as I do women) identify with her. Here's why: 

She wasn't above revenge. Refusing to take it on the chin when her second husband Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein (father of her two sons) cheated on her with Margaret Jay – she wrote Heartburn – only the best, sharpest, book about break up ever written.

She was a renaissance woman – journalist, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, essayist. In a time when women just didn't do those things. Well, not all of them.

She made it in a man's world. How many women were writing, producing and directing movies in the 80s and 90s? How many are doing it now? Quite.

She was nominated for three Oscars – for When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Silkwood. She should have won. She didn't. Please don't insult her by giving her a posthumous award.

She wrote When Harry Met Sally. THE classic romcom – in fact, scratch romcom, one of THE CLASSIC MOVIES of all time. What more do you need?

She's been described as a 'multi-media Dorothy Parker' and she was certainly as quotable. Barely a day passes when I don't hear someone mutter 'thin, pretty, big tits, your basic nightmare'.

She wasn't afraid of failure. People were pretty keen to stick it to her movies – they're 'chick' movies after all. Ephron didn't give a damn. And nor should you. I love Sleepless in Seattle and I'm not ashamed to say so.

Her mother told her 'take notes, everything is copy'. She lived by that.

She was the original funny feminist: 'The Wonderbra is not a step forward for women.  Nothing that hurts that much is a step forward for women,' she said in 1996.

I could go on. And on and on. The quotes are endless, as are the achievements. All you have to do is put her name into Google and you can kiss goodbye to the rest of the day. But I'll leave the last word to Nora. I'm pretty sure she would have wanted it that way: 'Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim,' she said. 
It's not even breakfast time yet, what are you waiting for?

If you haven't read any of Ephron's writing, start with the brilliant revenge-novel, Heartburn (Virago, £7.99); then try some of her writing. My favourite is I Feel Bad About My Neck (Black Swan, £7.99).

(This piece first appeared on my blog on, 27 June 2012.)

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