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

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Technician

£35200 per annum + Pension and holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Engine...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing specialist merchant co...

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'