Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Open Letter to Nora Ephron

Dear Nora,

I found myself with tears streaming down my face at the news of your passing. I was sitting in my wide-open cubicle at work when I read the news on Facebook. Not the most convenient place to be unreasonably crying one's eyes out, but I decided that if you'd scripted my discovery of the news of your death, you'd have me crying at work. It's honest and funny that way, and those were the cornerstones of your writing style - to me at least.

I called my mother as soon as I got in the car to drive home.
  • "Mom I have the most terrible news!" I said. 
  • "My god what??" she replied.
  • "Nora Ephron died!!" I wailed. 
  • "Jesus, Jessica," she said, "I thought something truly terrible happened! Don't scare me like that."
  • "This is truly terrible..." I said. 
  • "Honey, we didn't know her."
I didn't reply. It felt weird to say, "I feel like I did..." I'm not one of those people who says sappy things like that. I didn't cry when Michael Jackson or Princess Diana died. But maybe that's because I didn't feel like I knew them.

I don't think I knew what it meant to feel like you know a person through their writing until I became a writer myself. People would say, "I feel like I can hear you saying this when I read it!" or, "I just know we could be best friends from reading your writing." I'm inclined to be freaked out by that kind of projection - to say, "you don't know a damn about me!" But the truth is that we write to be known. Or, at least, we write so that other people can know a feeling or truth or theory that we feel. We write to make the world feel smaller. And - if I may project - I think you wrote so that the world would make a little more sense.

Your articles, books, and most notably your movies touched people in myriad ways. I could quote them backwards and forwards (and did so all yesterday afternoon to pretty much anyone who would listen - "thank your ladies and gentlemen"). But for me it's not the movies themselves that inspired me to attempt writing articles, books, and movies of my own - it's their humor. 

You found a way to laugh through the most painful of life experiences, and you infused your characters with that perspective on how we ought to live. That is the gift of your writing, and it's one that I think about every single time I sit down at the computer with a blank document open. What's the core of this feeling or issue or moment? And how can I turn it upside until I can find a way to laugh and move on.

The world is a less funny place today because you're no longer in it. And I'd venture to guess that women just like me - whether they're aspiring Nora Ephrons or not - feel like they just lost someone they're sure they could have been best friends with, if only their paths had crossed.

Thank you for everything.

1 comment:

  1. Well, why in the hell would you cry for a drug addict / child molester like Michael Jackson?