Remembering Nora Ephron, and how her essays made her movies better


I called my mother on my way home from a dinner party last night to let her know that Nora Ephron had died. Or at least, if she already knew Nora Ephron had died, to reassure her that I still had her copies of Crazy Salad and Wallflower at the Orgy, books that I’d sneaked off her shelves years beforehand, and that followed me to college and to Washington, DC. Lots of people are remembering Ephron’s movies, and I’m watching Sleepless in Seattle as I write this, but I knew Ephron as a writer and reporter on media and the women’s movement before I knew her as a screenwriter and director, and it’s hard for me to see her movies in any other context than that writing and reporting.

Ephron wrote powerfully about the culture of politics and the politics of culture. Doing the former, covering the activities of the National Women’s Political Caucus at the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami, she captured something about the subordinate position of women in left politics that persists to this day when she wrote that “In a sense, the major function for the N.W.P.C. was to be ornamental—that is, it was simply to be there. Making its presence it felt. Putting forth the best possible face. Pretending to a unity that did not exist. Above all, putting on a good show: the abortion plank would never carry, a woman would not be nominated as Vice-President this year, but the N.W.P.C. would put on a good show.”


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