This is a guest post by Lorrie Lynch of AARP.org.
On the cover of Nora Ephron’s novel Heartburn — the 1983 book that was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep — is a quote touting it as “proof positive that writing well is the best revenge.”
It’s Dorothy Parker‘s line, but I’ve always associated it with Ephron because the revenge she takes in that novel, writing a character we all assumed to be her ex-husband Carl Bernstein, is as delicious as the recipes she includes throughout. Nora Ephron, who died of leukemia at age 71 on June 26, made me want to keep on writing, as well as at least try to cook.
Oh, how I longed over the years to skewer a bad boyfriend or ex-fiancé with the same razor-sharp wit and intelligence that Ephron could command in everything she wrote. I did try it myself a time or two in the privacy of my diary. Though a young news reporter at the time, I was never brave enough to even think about showing such prose to a potential publisher.
Fast forward through career, marriage, kid . . . I was always following Ephron’s work, reading her books, seeing her movies. And I was excited when I got a chance to talk to her — if only for a short phone interview — when I was writing a magazine cover story on John Travolta. He starred in her 1996 comedy, Michael, soon after his Pulp Fiction comeback, and he had already told me what a terrific director he found her to be. I called her in her editing room, and she was equally magnanimous about him — no surprise, he was the star of her movie — but she was genuine. More fun for me, then the mother of a seven-year-old girl, we talked a few minutes about working motherhood and the difficulties of balance.
She had not yet written I Feel Bad About My Neck, the 2006 bestseller that we women of a certain age passed along like the name of a good plastic surgeon. My favorite essay among the book’s many goodies is “On Maintenance,” in which Ephron breaks down the time and money it takes to keep from looking like — well, let’s be real — regular women.
She was no regular person. For me, she was a guide to getting through the stuff of life: the men who disappoint, the careers that careen out of control, the children who give depth to your soul, the crinkled neck and all the attendant insecurities that aging may bring in a youth-obsessed world.
Thanks, Nora, for helping me this far. —Lorrie Lynch