Last week I watched the fascinating documentary Everything Is Copy, about the life of Nora Ephron. I’ve been trying to track it down since I first heard about it around the time she died and I finally managed to get it downloaded on a friend’s satellite box. In many ways it told me little that I didn’t already know; Nora was an intelligent, fierce, warm, wonderful person who was beloved by many. She was a phenomenal writer and director, not to mention wife, mother, sister and cook.
After watching the film I brought my copy of The Most of Nora Ephron to the top of my reading pile and dived in. Reading pieces, familiar and new, from a lifetime’s body of work was sometimes overwhelming. I realised that I can never hope to match her; I always knew that I would be unable to be as brilliant but the sheer range of production, breadth of topics and work ethic that they demonstrate make her totally unassailable. Yet this doesn’t, oddly, dispirit me. There is something so accessible about her, even now, that means I feel I can keep trying and that will be enough.
So, why do I adore her work so? Well, firstly, it’s funny. I mean, Woody Allen in the 1970s funny. You may dismiss You’ve Got Mail but remember When Harry Met Sally. She can distil the neurotic oddness of our privileged lives into a pithy statement that both resonates and also causes you to snort tea in laughter. She gets it, and by ‘it’ I mean everything. Her friends say that she had the answer to any question and this seems perfectly logical and correct. Yet you don’t resent her or feel smothered by smugness, because she also makes it clear that this knowledge has been learned from the life school of hard choices. She had been there – she has witnessed or experienced it – and is giving you the notes to help you move on by. She opens herself up to show that she was just as naïve and foolish and hopeful and disappointed as you, and that you too will survive like her.
Because this is the thing that I really adore about Nora – she totally gets that life, especially in the 21st century, is ridiculous and flawed and selfish and awful and hopeless and yet she shows you the little things that can help you to love it. She gives you a sense of hope and optimism in the face of the brutal pointlessness of it all. She shows that you can be both aware and smart but also wilfully naïve and hopeful. You can still wallow in romance whilst dealing with heartbreak. You can worry about your neck whilst feeling helpless about Guantanamo Bay and political tsunamis. She gets, or rather got, life and she helped to show us the way. Thank you, Nora; I will always adore you.