Nora Ephron (1941 - 2012)

Nora_ephronI loved Nora Ephron. I loved her long before she got sick, and long before I'd actually met her. Like many, many women my age, I wanted to be her, and everything from her essays (even the ones about having small breasts--not, I admit, my problem) to her seminal novel, Heartburn, did nothing to change that. I didn’t meet Nora until about 2006, when, at an event for her then-current book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, she threw her arms around me--me! Her eternal fan, whom I thought she had no reason to know--and said "You’re such a star. I'm so proud of you."

I had written to Nora Ephron, asking her to blurb my book, So Many Books, So Little Time. I had gotten her address from her longtime friend Joni Evans, who said, "What the hell? Let’s give it a try!" Ephron refused to blurb the book, but she did it in the nicest, most hilarious way. The letter she sent me--hand-written, to my home address, how she got that I don't know--was delightful, all about how she'd given up blurbing when her veterinarian threatened to kill her cat if she didn't blurb his book. (I assumed then, and now, that she--or he--was kidding.) I was ambitious enough to ask if I could use her funny letter as a quote. She said no.

More recently, I got to know Nora a very little bit through her sister Delia, whom I met at a book party under circumstances so weird I will save them for another time. Delia and Nora were close--they wrote You’ve Got Mail together, among other things, including the delightful, Love, Loss, and What I Wore--but Delia never traded on her relationships. But when Delia's book was published, it was Nora's house to which I went as a dinner companion and celebrant: say what you will about Nora's ambition, that night was all about her wonderful younger sister.

Over the last few years, I've been sent a number of writers from Nora. When Nora sent you somebody she thought was great, you listened. As I said to one of these women, who had been counseled by Nora to write the story of her unusual childhood: "I’ve learned a few things... One is that when Nora or Delia tells you to do something, you should do it." 

I always wanted to write a book like Heartburn. (Nora said to me, when I told her I wanted to write a book about MY divorce, but I didn’t think I had the distance to be mean enough, "It doesn’t have to be that mean, Sara. It just has to be funny!") Hell, I would have been happy writing one essay that had the verve and humor and style and honesty of anything in Scribble, Scribble or Crazy Salad.

Dear Nora. I hardly knew you. But you were everything to me, and to so many of us who dared to think that being a funny, observant woman could make us writers.

--Sara Nelson

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Comments (3)

Such a beautiful and touching note to someone that's done so much for women who write. She will dearly be missed and may her legacy continues with amazing women that write with passion and wit like her.

Posted by: Herberth | Tuesday June 26, 2012 at 7:50 PM

I just picked up this morning's NY Times and there was the obituary on the front page. Could not believe it. I started reading her when she was still writing for Esquire. I'd moved into a house where someone had left a stack behind and there she was. I then bought Crazy Salad, Scribble, Scribble and Wallflower at the Orgy in short order. Still have the paperbacks disintegrating on my shelf. I've enjoyed everything she'd done since, but those books remain favorites.

Posted by: Aging Lit Major | Wednesday June 27, 2012 at 4:59 AM

Yeah, admirable place, I will appointment there with sometimes. Who is there!

Posted by: | Monday January 14, 2013 at 8:43 PM

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