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Lisa Markwell: Thanks, Nora. If only there were more like you

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  • @lisamarkwell

If you pieced together all the Nora Ephron lines 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 late author/scriptwriter/director 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": the summation of why Ephron herself was such a heroine. She turned her life experiences into witty, insightful entertainment. 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 diluted ever since her high water mark. When Harry Met Sally was a near-as-dammit perfect romantic comedy. It was funny, warm and it rang true (even if the zingers delivered were the ones we'd only have thought of long after the argument). But indirectly it spawned the careers of Jennifers Aniston and Garner, Reese 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 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 20s. "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."

Ephron then 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. For that, and all else, thank you Nora.