Writer, director and humorist Nora Ephron died Monday night, a shock to her friends and the world from whom she hid her struggle with acute myeloid leukemia. She was 71.
Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington told Ephron's friends on MSNBC's Morning Joe (see below) that Ephron thought she'd beat the leukemia because she so wanted to see her new play hit Broadway. But she couldn't overcome a bout with pneumonia; her death was announced by her son late Tuesday.
The New York Times called Nora Ephron "an essayist and humorist in the Dorothy Parker mold (only smarter and funnier, some said) who became one of her era's most successful screenwriters and filmmakers, making romantic comedy hits like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. The Times wrote:
In a commencement address she delivered in 1996 at Wellesley College, her alma mater, Ms. Ephron recalled that women of her generation weren't expected to do much of anything. But she wound up having several careers, all of them successfully and many of them simultaneously . . . .
"Why do people write books that say it's better to be older than to be younger?" she wrote in I Feel Bad About My Neck, her 2006 best-selling collection of essays. "It's not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you're constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday."
I remember her calling me one day to talk about why politicians were so afraid of the gay issue. Democrats and Republicans alike pretended, she said, that it was about religion or morality or politics when it was about people. People she loved and who loved her. She truly couldn't wrap her head around cowardice from leaders she otherwise had admired. And cowardice is what she called it. I tried to push back a little - as I did sometimes - to explain the politician mindset for caution to a woman who already knew it. (Thank god the president has since been a true champion - because disappointing Nora would be a terrible thing.)
I didn't know Nora Ephron - but I felt I did. She so captured the nuances in the friendship between women that it blew apart the old cultural adage that women really despise and are jealous of each other, usually over men. Really? Read the tribute by HuffPo Divorce page editor Sara Wilson on how they developed a web series called "The Breakover" that "celebrates a specifically female brand of personal reinvention following any of life's major seismic shifts, whether wanted or not - from getting fired from a job to going broke to ending a marriage and beyond." The tagline for the Divorce page: "Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever." Then there's reinvention as sweet revenge, if only for the personal satisfaction of knowing there's more life for YOU to live.