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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Trustee with Healthcare expertise

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Queen Elizabeth delivers the Queen's Speech next to Prince Phillip during the State Opening of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster in London  

A Queen's Speech which exposed this government for what it really is — Thatcherism with the lid on

James Bloodworth
Fifa president Sepp Blatter  

Fifa corruption arrests: A syndicate so removed from reality that it may yet destroy the thing it loves

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf