Lisa Markwell: Thanks, Nora Ephron. When will we find such wit and wisdom again?

Notebook

Share

If you pieced together all the Nora Ephron lines that appeared on Twitter yesterday, you'd probably have the entire script for When Harry Met Sally. You'd certainly have a complete edition of her book I Feel Bad About My Neck. The author/scriptwriter/director, whose death was announced yesterday, was that quotable.

I need not rehearse all of them here, but I must mention the exemplary "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim". In those 11 words is the summation of why Ephron herself was such a heroine. She turned her life experiences into witty, insightful entertainment, but almost as a side-product of just living a witty, insightful life. Ephron wasn't the first to turn her personal stuff into material – she just did it very well. Being left in a very undignified manner by one's husband and turning the episode into a hit book and film must be the very epitome of revenge being a dish best served cold (and with a fancy garnish).

She was also the master of a film style that, alas, has been watered down ever since her high water mark. When Harry Met Sally was a near-as-dammit perfect romantic comedy. It was funny, warm, surprising and it rang true (even if the zingers delivered were all the ones we'd have thought of after the argument, back home in bed). But indirectly it spawned the careers of Jennifers Aniston and Garner, Reece Witherspoon and Katherine Heigl, whose disappointingly unfunny, shrill romcoms give the genre a bad name.

Heartburn, that hit break-up book, exemplified the now familiar theme of combining remembrance with recipes. Ironically, Ephron's last film was an adaptation of Julie and Julia, a blog/book by a woman blending – yes, you've guessed it – her marital malaise with an obsessive pursuit of Julia Child's recipes. I can't imagine many book publishers being willing to publish such material if the trail hadn't been blazed by Ephron.

On body image, nothing better has been said than this: something that will henceforth be known as Nora's Law. It should be handed out on a laminated card to every woman in her twenties. "Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're 34."

And as her life continued playing out like a movie, Ephron published an utterly brilliant memoir. I Feel Bad About My Neck was everything a woman over 40 wants to articulate about life, appearance, getting older and feeling ill. Even when her dark, dark humour made bitter tears of acknowledgement spring to the eyes, she never painted herself as a victim. And that allowed the rest of us, getting wrinklier and slower, to feel OK about it all.

There are now myriad books cataloguing, in forensic detail, everything from marriage break-ups to parenting disasters to dating hell, but these often seem to take something away from the author and the reader. Ephron added. She added fun, empathy, understanding. One last quote (sorry, it's irresistible): "I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are". I hope there are some new Noras out there, taking notes.

Let me tell you a story...

The summer holiday looms, as does the search for family-friendly entertainment. Together with my teenagers I'm attending Beyond the Border, the Welsh International Storytelling Festival this weekend.

I know. It sounds like something we'd all have to be dragged to, kicking and screaming. It sounds beyond brown rice and sandals, never mind borders. But I'm told by others who've taken their giant, lolloping offspring in previous years that something rather brilliant happens when the professional raconteurs do their thing. Everyone stops and sits, rapt, for ages.

And after weeks of nag/grunt exam-related exchanges, I think this might be a welcome break; not least because teenage brains addled by cramming need some soothing. (And all kids like a story, even though the big ones are never, ever going to admit it.)

twitter.com/@lisamarkwell

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Permanent Class Teachers Required for 2015/2016 - Suffolk

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers seeking perma...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers Required in Norwich and Great Yarmouth

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am working on behalf of a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate - Newly Qualified Teachers Required For Sept 2015

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate Teachers/ Newly Qua...

Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate - Newly Qualified Teachers Required For Sept 2015

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate Teachers/ Newly Qua...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dolphin Square where Lord Sewel allegedly took drugs with prostitutes  

Lord Sewel's real crime was joining the House of Lords in the first place

Boris Corovic
 

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food