I was going to post about Canada Day and my mixed marriage, but something else came up that pushed me in a different direction. And since Neil Gaiman (my hero) said
“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
So, I have to blog follow my blogging heart. I was saddened to hear of the death of writer Nora Ephron last week at age 71. Ephron was of my mom’s generation and I have to admit just that fact is enough to (positively) color my thoughts about her. But she was also brilliant writer who had the gift of expressing the truth of life, love and relationships in modern culture. (And that’s what ties her to Austen in my mind, in case you were wondering) As any writer can tell you, one of the hardest parts of the job is keeping your fiction ‘real’- the dialog, the interactions, the behaviors, they all have to be believable. Trying to mimic life is much harder than it sounds.
And that was what I admired in Ephron: her ability to make ‘true love’ seem like something that could truly happen.
I first encountered her in High School, when Heartburn, her fictionalized account of her marriage and divorce to journalist Carl Bernstein. I didn’t really know who Bernstein was or why he was important, but I enjoyed the snarkiness of the book and it’s willingness to paint un-pretty pictures of it’s characters. The author wasn’t trying to save anyone’s face. Everyone came off at best neurotic and at worse selfish and deranged. And yet, you rooted for them, you wanted the characters to have everything work out and get a happy ending. I loved it and of all the many, many books I read in high school, that was one of the few that stayed with me.
During her career, Ephron wrote everything: newspaper articles, magazine articles, essays, books, movie screenplays and blogs. Her most famous work was the screenplay for the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. That film was huge- provoking so many conversations about the nature of friendship, of relationships, of sex and love. As a college girl who was dating (and would later marry) her high school sweetheart, it presented a very different view of relationships than I was familiar with. I was (and in many ways still am) very naive, generally believing that everyone was always trying to do their best and no one ever purposefully took advantage of anyone else. Everyone has their true love waiting for them and forever happiness was just a matter of finding that one person. Ephron told a different, more complex, and more common story: That people are good and bad, and that they change. That what might be right now, might be wrong later, and what might be a mistake now, might be just what you need then.
Romance (or anti-romance, if you will) was her homebase, but Ephron was willing and able to take on a great deal of topics. I was surprised to see that one of Ephron’s first screenplays was Silkwood, about a whistleblower in a nuclear power plant. Very different from Sleepless in Seatle, her other hugely popular rom-com. One of her final films was Julie and Julia, in which she wrote about the life of a professional blogger, demonstrating her remarkable ability to stay current.
I’m a big believer in role models. Not in a ‘after school special-don’t do drugs’ mode, but in the ‘here’s a picture of what success looks like, so you can recognize what you need to do to achieve it’. And Nora is for me, one of the best writing role models I could hope for: honest, courageous, smart and aware. I’ll miss her.
Nora Ephron in IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001188/
Nora Ephron Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nora_Ephron
Heather Lynn Rigaud is the author Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star