June 27th, 2012
04:46 PM ET

Female writers to Nora Ephron: 'I'll have what she's having'

by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN.com Identity editor

(CNN) - The romantic comedy is not a movie category necessarily known for churning out Oscar nominees, but in the capable hands of Nora Ephron, the "rom-com,"  a genre that elicits as many rolled eyes as clutched hearts, was a smart and lovely thing.

In the oft quoted scene from "When Harry Met Sally," for which Ephron earned a screenwriting Oscar nomination, Sally, played by Meg Ryan, imitates a moment of pleasure with great exaggeration, before promptly stopping and having a bite to eat.  A neighboring diner looks at Ryan, then at her waiter, and deadpans:

"I'll have what she's having."

Nora Ephron, prolific writer and filmmaker, dies at age 71

Ephron was a writer's writer: journalist, book author, playwright, blogger, editor, director. In the process, she became a symbol to a generation, similar to what  Dorothy Parker, the journalist known for her wit, was to her: an example of an intelligent, witty writer of a generation.

"I’m not going to lie: since I first learned of Nora, when I understood the body of her work, I wanted to be like her," Forbes contributor Liza Donnelly wrote.

Emily Yoffe, a Slate Magazine contributor, shared: "Of course the point of worshipping Nora Ephron was not to be her second-rate imitator, but to try to learn from her the art of writing sentences that could come from only one person."

"I'm so, so, so very sad that we've lost such a powerful and brilliant woman, but so, so, so very thankful that she gave me and so many other young men and women so many dreams," wrote comedian Meghan O'Keefe for The Huffington Post.

Nora Ephron made romantic comedies and films featuring nuanced women a familiar thing, and also mined her own life for art.

The best of Nora Ephron

She famously turned a personal fixation into her classic Esquire essay, "A Few words about breasts":

"And even now, now that I have been countlessly reassured that my figure is a good one, now that I am grown-up enough to understand that most of my feelings have very little to do with the reality of my shape, I am nonetheless obsessed by breasts. I cannot help it. I grew up in the terrible '50s — with rigid stereotypical sex roles, the insistence that men be men and dress like men and women be women and dress like women, the intolerance of androgyny — and I cannot shake it, cannot shake my feelings of inadequacy."

The heartache and meltdown of her marriage to her second husband, Carl Bernstein, became fodder for a novel, then movie. "Heartburn," the fictional story based on the end of that marriage, was a best-seller, and further established her as a literary voice and screenwriter.

Love, loss and what Nora ate

In a 1996 commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley, Ephron told graduates:

"This is the season when a clutch of successful women - who have it all - give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can't have it all. Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: You can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."

She offered a template for a generation of women then, and now, to get a chance to have what she had.

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Filed under: Gender • Pop culture • Who we are • Women
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Zukile

    If you're really as Italian as you caemild, you would know that Italian-style meatballs (secundo) and pasta (primi piatti) don't actually end up in the same plate in Italian cooking as it is done in Italy.

    October 15, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. bernie

    RIP Nora! you will be missed!

    June 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dadeo

    Rob Reiner's mother said the line. Billy Crystal suggested the line. Google it and you'll see...

    June 28, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    "imitates a moment of pleasure"? What you can't say "orgasm" in the article?

    June 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dee

    Do some research. Silkwood, Heartburn, yes, When Harry Met Sally, Julie and Julia. A couple of excellent books. Journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and able to make everyone laugh.
    2 Oscar nominations that I recall.
    Not bad. Let the vitriole continue.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Trevor

    Quote: Female writers to Nora Ephron: 'I'll have what she's having'

    She's having not much because she died, so they're saying they want death?

    June 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. max

    Ah, but Rob Riner the director said no, that she wrote it just now on MSNBC.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • 18E

      Rob Reiner this week end on the PBS program, What do you know, said it was his mother.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |