An Ode To Nora Ephron
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An Ode To Nora Ephron

One of the most outstanding writers of all time

An Ode To Nora Ephron

The raw and honest writing by Nora Ephron will be remembered for a long time. Nora Ephron is an acclaimed essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and director originally from New York City. She moved to Beverly Hills along with her parents, Phoebe and Henry Ephron, when she was four years old. Although her and her three younger siblings had somewhat of a troubled childhood with artists and alcoholics for parents, Nora went on to graduate from the private school Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a degree in journalism in 1962. This year would prove to be extremely important for Nora Ephron.

In 1962, there was a newspaper strike concerning better payment of writers and journalists. During the strike, she met Victor Navasky, the future editor of the newspaper The Nation. He was working on a parody newspaper of The New York Post entitled The New York Pest. Navasky asked Ephron if she would write a spoof for this satirical newspaper making fun of the columnist Leonard Lyons. After The New York Post read the parody version, they threatened to sue Navasky. However, Dorothy Schiff, the publisher, said that anyone who could make fun of their newspaper should also be writing for it. And just like that, Ephron was given a trial as a reporter and within a week had a permanent job there.

After writing for The New York Post, Ephron went on to write for Esquire and The New York Times. In the 1970s, she began to focus on writing about women’s rights. Her hip and fresh writing style caught the attention of many. She wrote about her feelings, she was not artificial, and that’s what made her writing so interesting and candid. With works like “Crazy Salad” and "Heartburn", Nora Ephron became a prominent figure of feminist literature. Reading her works was educational, but also comical and charming. Hadley Freeman says in her article, “Nora Ephron Taught Me All About Feminism – and About Sharp Writing”, “[Ephron] knew what was important, and she didn't get bogged down in the clamoring detail. That's what made her such a great feminist, and what makes her an eternally admirable writer”.

To continue researching Ephron’s works about feminism, I decided to read and research Nora Ephron’s essay, “A Few Words About Breasts”. In her essay, she clearly states she never had large breasts. She tells numerous stories of the many times she was reminded of this fact, like when all the girls in her middle school started to buy and wear bras but her mother would not let her because she did not think she needed one yet. Nora tried to sort of fake growing up while she was in school. She told her peers that she had her period when she did not, and she wore bras that were twice her actual size just to seem like she was more grown up, and more of a woman. Nora tells the story of seeing her best friend for the first time all summer going into the seventh grade, and seeing that her friend had developed a womanly body, breasts, and started to wear makeup. She says, “my best friend has betrayed me. She has gone ahead without me and done it. She has shaped up”.

At the end of “A Few Words About Breasts”, Nora tells a story of some women with big breasts who tried to comfort her with the fact that having breasts was actually a curse. They said that Nora was much better off not having her bra straps snapped in school, and not being judged whenever the word “mountain” came up inside of the classroom. Although Nora says she tried to see their point of view and understand where those women were coming from, she finishes her essay by saying, “I think they are full of shit”.

Some critics have called Ephron’s work trash because of its obscurity and profanity; but this is an example of the fresh, renowned writing that Nora Ephron was known for. This essay is about even more than giving women and girls a confidence boost. In “A Few Words About Breasts”, Ephron shares her personal experiences where she was belittled for her breast size. Readers do not feel alone because Ephron establishes a personal connection. Her playfulness and sense of sincerity is astounding. It is important to note that she had dealt with this insecurity for years and years. There is a section where she is talking about being in a bathing suit during high school where she says, “I die when I think about the bathing suits”. She could still feel her past pain and anxiety just thinking about wearing a bathing suit and was instantly uncomfortable because of her breast size. Nora Ephron can relate to the reader, feel their pain, share her own pain, and in the end, wrap it up into something empowering.

Nora Ephron died at the age of 71 from leukemia and pneumonia. In the documentary about her life, "Everything is Copy", written and directed by her son Jacob Bernstein, her friends said they had no idea that she was ever ill. They said that she was so lively and open about her life that they were in shock to discover she had kept the secret of her leukemia. Knowing someone so full of energy and light had passed on was hard to come to terms with. Nora Ephron had worked with many stars who appeared in "Everything is Copy", such as Tom Hanks, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, and Meryl Streep. Each of them shared their stories of working with Ephron and how much she meant to them. Being able to watch Nora Ephron’s colleagues and friends speak about her was remarkable. She became a person connected with and respected, not just an author I was writing and reading about.

People close to her were shaken by her death. It was covered by journalists and news reporters all around the world, because that is how many people she touched. In her novel, "I Remember Nothing", which was a collection of essays, she wrote one called “What I Won’t and Will Miss”. A perfect model of Nora’s personality are some things that she wrote she will miss: “My kids, Nick, Spring, Fall, waffles, the bed, reading in bed, Fireworks, laughs, the view out the window, twinkle lights, "Pride and Prejudice", the Christmas tree, Thanksgiving dinner, one for the table, the dogwood, taking a bath, coming over the bridge to Manhattan, pie.” This is another piece where Ephron uses comedy to touch on a serious subject. Nora Ephron died, but her works live on, along with her erratic personality.

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