I have a soft spot for Nora Ephron that’s different from my soft spots for other writers I admire. It’s not that I’m such a fan. I’m not. I liked her stuff. She made me laugh. But she wasn’t one of my top favorites. Not knocking, only setting this up. The reason I have such a soft spot for her is that she and her work meant a lot to two young journalists I knew many years ago when they were starting out. One I’m married to, the other is our old pal Nancy Nall.
So the feelings I have for Ephron are kind of like the feelings you’d have when you hear about a friend’s favorite teacher from a time before you knew them back in high school or college. You admire that teacher, even like teacher, even though you never met her, and you’re grateful to her for your friend’s sake.
I’m grateful to Nora Ephron for the blonde and Nance’s sakes.
As you can imagine, Nance is feeling bad about Nora:
I’ve said here before that Ephron wrote great essays as a young woman, stuff that I read and reread and re-reread, internalizing them and turning her phrases over and over, secreting my own nacre over them until they became stepping stones to my own voice as a writer. I’m serious: I’m the writer I am in part because Nora Ephron was the writer she was, not the greatest ever, but a voice I envied and aped — casual, funny, smart, confessional. I wanted to be her, and while I couldn’t be the 1941-born Jewish daughter of screenwriter/playwrights in Los Angeles, imitating her for a while helped me become the 1957-born Catholic daughter of a couple of ordinary parents, with whatever voice that became.
Nance’s whole post is here.
I never met Ephron. But I have met Jim Wolcott and Gary Wills and they met her, many a time.
A good thing about being a good writer is that you probably have good friends who are also good writers who will write good things about you when you die. Good as in complimentary, of course. But good as in…good.
Jim wrote about Ephron in a post today:
For all the fuss made over the importance of "voice" in writing, fact is, very few writers have a voice on the page that you can pick out of a crowd and Ephron had it, a casual-seeming conversational voice that…seems easy to emulate until you actually try it and find yourself straightening out paper clips, sighing at the ceiling, stumped.
Read the whole post, Another Soul Exits the Party. It’s good.
And at the New York Review of Books, Gary Wills tells how Ephron, although a good and funny writer, was something better than a good and funny writer.
She was kind.
Here’s the link to Wills’ post, Nora the Perfectionist.
Photo via Strand Books.