While All Things Girl never had the opportunity to interview Nora Ephron, all of us reacted with surprise and sadness at her recent passing. True, there were bigger new items in the US headlines last week, but for those of us who grew up in the latter half of the twentieth century, who came of age in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, who are smart, well-read women (and the men who love them) it was Ms. Ephron’s passing that had the more visceral effect.
Various journalists have described Ephron as the person responsible for the existence of the romantic comedy. I disagree – after all, the banter between Bogard and Bacall in all those classic films certainly qualified them for the genre, but I’ll concede that the modern romantic comedy owes much to Ephron’s wit and wisdom.
After all, who wasn’t delighted by the famous diner scene in When Harry Met Sally? Who didn’t wish Tom Hanks was on the other end of every online chat after seeing You’ve Got Mail? Who didn’t hear her voice in the ultimate foodie film Julie and Julia?
Romantic comedy, however, was just one of the things Ephron did well. Fans of NPR’s Fresh Air will remember that she spoke of the years when she was married to Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and Bernstein) claiming that she’d figured out who Deep Throat was almost immediately – and told everyone who asked. In the NPR interview she said, “I would give speeches to 500 people and someone would say, ‘Do you know who Deep Throat is?’ And I would say, ‘It’s Mark Felt.’”
And let us not forget that she also served as screenwriter for the decidedly unromantic Silkwood.
Two years ago, Ephron released what was to be her last book (did we mention she also wrote wonderful books), I Remember Nothing. Friends of hers, and astute readers, now say that the book is riddled with clues that she was sick (her death last week, at age 71, was due to leukemia), and that she knew something was wrong. As I have not yet finished the book, I can’t speak to that, but below, please find an excerpt – her list of things she will and won’t miss – as reproduced by the Lists of Note webpage. Reading it after her death, it seems obvious that she knew her time was short, and, indeed, in that same “Fresh Air” interview from around its publication, she spoke of the fact that she would no longer go to restaurants unless she knew they’d be excellent, “because I have a finite number of dinners left in me.”
I never knew Nora Ephron. But her work brought me into my adulthood, and her wit, wisdom, and well-drawn women characters – women who were independent and self-sufficient but still warm, women who were as fully three-dimensional as anyone I know in real life – helped form my own love of dialogue, of storytelling, and, I confess, of a really good “chick film.”
What I Won’t Miss
Bad dinners like the one we went to last night
Technology in general
Washing my hair
Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism
The collapse of the dollar
The sound of the vacuum cleaner
E-mail. I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it.
Panels on Women in Film
Taking off makeup every night
What I Will Miss
The concept of waffles
A walk in the park
The idea of a walk in the park
Shakespeare in the Park
Reading in bed
The view out the window
Dinner at home just the two of us
Dinner with friends
Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives
Next year in Istanbul
Pride and Prejudice
The Christmas tree
One for the table
Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan