Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saying good-bye to Nora Ephron, a woman of my generation

This week we learned that Nora Ephron is gone...dead at age 71 after dealing with leukemia for the past six years. For me this is another loss for a generation of women who embraced birth control, divorce, full-time work, and gourmet cooking (not necessarily in that order). A generation that was breaking new ground, finding our way forward with every ounce of passion in our bodies.
Ephron's 1983 novel, "Heartburn" loosely based on her divorce from Carl Bernstein proved (as one reviewer said) that "writing well is the best revenge." Her continuing commentary on social change in America in the latter half of the 20th Century always was just a few steps ahead of the rest of us.
Ephron's screenplays for "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," and the recent "Julie & Julia" were among her writing successes.
"Ah," I'd say to myself, "she's so right, so on top of what's going on."
For me this generatinal drum beat of losses began in 2009 with the death of Sheila Lukins, who co-wrote "The Silver Palate" cookbook, which more than once saved me from a culinary disaster.
Along with Gail Sheehy, Erica Jong, Nancy Milford, and Joyce Rebeta-Burditt, who wrote "The Cracker Factory,"  Ephron helped define, amuse and inspire my generation of women, who in our 30s were reinventing the roles of wife, mother and co-worker. Her observations delivered with wry humor made me want to read more. "Heartburn" is still on my bookshelf. Her message: Pretty much everything is worth a laugh. Nora, thank you. I wish you were going to be around for a while longer to help out.

Quotes from Nora Ephron.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”

“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”

“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

“The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It's followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.”

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
“So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?” 

“When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.”

“When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

“... the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book
is one of the main reasons I read;
but it doesn't happen every time
or even every other time,
and when it does happen,
I am truly beside myself.


“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”

“My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.”

“I don't think any day is worth living without thinking about what you're going to eat next at all times.”

“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”

“Summer bachelors like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”

“[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.”

“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind. ”

“There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye. In the 1950's only 7 percent of American women dyed their hair; today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all.”

“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it's your last, or do you save your money on the chance you'll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?”

“Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. ... Reading is bliss.”

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
― Nora Ephron Wellesley College commencement speech.


“There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can't tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he's liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can't adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”
“I am living in the Google years, no question of that. And there are advantages to it. When you forget something, you can whip out your iPhone and go to Google. The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn't it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up....

"You can't retrieve you life (unless you're on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).”

“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn't work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.”

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