My Nora Ephron Problem

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Janet Maslin wrote a touching essay in The New York Times about Nora Ephron to commemorate her passing last week.  She mentioned that she and many other women had “Nora Ephron problems” because, hard as they tried, they just couldn’t be as funny, creative, or prolific as she was.

I wanted (still want) to write like Nora. To be able to view the world and write about it with that wry, rueful, often wistful honesty. To filter the mundane through a rich, poetic lens.  To be able to capture the zeitgeist of a generation of smart, liberal, sophisticated, grounded, and battle-weary women.

My first thought upon learning about Nora Ephron’s death was that it couldn’t be. I must have mis-heard. It just wasn’t possible.  Her job was to be there for people like me- a lookout for the fake, the phony, the specious.  She “should” have been able to turn death away with a quip or two.  How could she contract such a serious, unfunny illness?  If she had to die it should have been an amusing scene; some sort of epic black comedy.  Not in a bed in the hospital. No. Not Nora.

When I first read Heartburn it was 1985 and I had just survived my own betrayal and divorce. The book, sad though it was, somehow heartened me, convinced me that I’d be able to write myself into feeling better about my life if I could just get the right “voice.”  But the part that really nailed it for me was this:

“What had happened? What had gone wrong? He was crazy. I kept coming back to that.  It was a simple enough answer but accepting that answer meant accepting that I would never really know what had happened, accepting the mystery. I hate mystery, and I’m not the only one who does. Nature abhors a mystery too.”

So, as I accepted my own run-of-the-mill tragedy,  I’ll just have to accept the mystery of this vital, spunky, funny, profound woman’s passing.  But I hate mystery. I’ll miss you Nora. But I’ll always be grateful for my Nora Ephron problem.

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Categories: wisdom

3 replies

  1. So many of us feel the same way. I was just speaking with a friend about how easily she was able to touch us where we hurt and make us see the world and our lives in perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Marianne. I will now go to the library and somewhat mournfully, reread Heartburn and probably cry a bit.

  2. Yeah, you’re back. I agree: what a shock, especially someone still young in age and heart. We’ll miss her, but your tribute can be added to those who admired and wanted more of her brilliance. Thanks and welcome back, Sally

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