Nora Ephron’s Impact

Nora Ephron died yesterday from complications surrounding Leukemia (diagnosed in 2006). Her writing, while mainly known for her screenplays, was a collection of deep thoughts and profound insights into the human condition and what actually drives people and their desires.

From Silkwood to When Harry Met Sally to one of my all-time favourite movies, Julie and Julia, Ephron struck a chord with the audience in a way that not many filmmakers do. Somehow she was able to reach through the screen and show the deeply personal struggles of each character as they grapple with every day emotions. It was Ephron’s intense writing that brought the scenes to life – the shower scene in Silkwood as Meryl Streep attempts to scrubs off her radiation exposure, the infamous diner scene in When Harry Met Sally, and the potato chopping scene in Julie and Julia, the audience was more than just watching the play, they were IN the play.

With Julie and Julia, I not only became intensely familiar with both lead characters, but their (semi) fictional influence trickled out into my own culinary and blogging world as well, providing cheap therapy with some (mostly) delicious results.

One of Ephron’s last interviews spoke in-depth about this character development, and went on to delve a bit deeper into the writer’s own personae and each of our own feelings of invincibility:

I think it’s like a lot of things about getting older — you have absolutely no imagination that this is actually going to happen to you,” she told NPR’s Neal Conan several years ago. “You think for quite a while you’re going to be the only person who doesn’t need reading glasses, or the only person who doesn’t go through menopause … and in the end, the only person who isn’t going to die. And then you suddenly are faced with whichever of those things it is, and you can’t believe how unimaginative you have been about what it actually consists of.(NPR)

This sentiment is pervasive. Even as I squint at the screen now, knowing that the very objects of which I speak are changing with time, growing more laugh lines around the perimeters, yet continually seeing the world in new and exciting ways (albeit, from a little farther away), we somehow still trick ourselves into believing that this fodder is for others, because we are different. We are unique. We adjust our gaze but not our external dialogue. We actually believe that we will live forever.

She goes on to talk about this squinting in more detail in another NPR interview:
On growing older and approaching mirrors
If I’m following a young person down the street and the young person passes a mirror, I see the fabulous way he or she turns toward it and kind of smiles and checks himself/herself out and they know what they’re going to see. We don’t know. There’s a certain moment where you’re just terrified about what you’re going to see. So if you are forced to look at a mirror, you squint and then gently open your eyes to see if it’s safe. And if it’s not, you close them and walk on.” (NPR)

That one struck a chord on several levels as chronological MID life point approaches; the wrinkles, the stiffness, the facial features changing, the vibrant colours fading as we attempt to capture this time in space for just a little longer, maybe reluctant to let go of some of our wildness in an attempt to hold-on to our youth.

Ephron goes on to talk about living for today:

You know, when my close friend died – you know, we’d always sit around and play the game What Would Your Last Meal Be? Mine happens to be a Nate & Al’s hotdog. But Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, I can’t even have my last meal.
And that’s what you have to know, is, if you’re serious about it, have it now. Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you’re lying on your deathbed, you’re not thinking, oh, I should have had more Nate & Al’s hot dogs.

Nora Ephron influenced a generation with her wit and determination in all facets of her writing. Tonight, watch one of her movies, eat your favourite meal, look in the mirror with open eyes (or a few squints) and admire all the life still in you. Cheers Nora!

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