I was on Twitter late this afternoon when I saw a tweet from the New York Times with the breaking news that Ephron, my idol, my heroine, the woman who inspired me to become a writer in the first place, had died of leukemia at age 71. I didn’t even know she was sick. I was devastated. The obituary by Charles McGrath was wonderful, and I have no doubt that Ephron herself would have applauded it. But still. I just can’t believe she’s gone.
How do I count the ways I loved her?
I’ll start with the books. From her early collection of columns and her autobiographical novel Heartburn to her more recent books about aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing, her writing had a major influence on me. She taught me that women could be smart and funny and truthful – the heroines of their own stories, never the victim of them. She made writing look easy enough that I felt emboldened to try it, even as her short, simple sentences were the essence of perfect comic timing. She had a unique way of saying something caustic and cynical even as she allowed us to see what a romantic she was. I’ve re-read all of her books so many times that I can practically recite her words from memory.
And then there were her films. I admired how she came from the print world – the journalism world – and yet plunged headlong into screenwriting with Silkwood and, soon after, hit her stride with When Harry Met Sally. She became the queen of writer-directors, never failing to carry the torch for stories about women. Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail were as charming and sweet as they were witty and sly, and nobody’s written a romantic comedy since with her level of sophistication.
Even her opinion pieces in newspapers, magazines and blogs were knowing and clever. She had a gift, plain and simple. I’m so damn sad that there won’t be more coming from her fertile mind.
I think I’ll celebrate her life tonight by pulling out my dogeared copy of Heartburn – for the 7,000th time.