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Nora's Voice

A woman is sitting by the pool, fully dressed and she is reading a book by Delia Ephron—Nora’s sister—reading and then looking at the pool, and then reading again. I spot her as I am doing my last lap and notice the cover of the book—pale pink and pale blue—and recognize her: she lives in my building, I live in hers, we have chatted in the elevator as one chats in the elevator—briefly. Then I am out of the pool, a towel around my shoulders, dripping, cold, and she is telling me she is there to observe and imprint upon her young son the importance of learning to swim so as not to drown in their pool in the Hamptons. “But he is a fish,” I say. Five years old, purple swim cap, goggles, completely adorable. What might Nora have said about such intense, privileged parenting? A lot.

“And why are you reading this book by Delia?”

“Because my mother worked for Nora and we were all at the memorial.”

And though I am cold and dripping, I linger to talk. I am envious that I have not been invited o the memorial and that I had never met Nora Ephron. Because of her writing, especially in the heat of the women’s movement when she collected her Esquire pieces into a book called “Crazy Salad,” we are intimates. And my relationship with Nora continued as she became a filmmaker and my daughter and I watched “When Harry Met Sally,” “Silkwood,” and “You’ve Got Mail,” together.

We women writers of a certain age have always treasured Nora Ephron as one of the first “girls” to crash the ceiling in the newsroom, as a free spirit, as a fine essayist, screenwriter and director, and as a brave honest soul. As homage and tribute, I have just finished reading her last two books: “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” and “I Remember Nothing,” and though they are permeated with the culture of celebrity, they are still wonderful, honest, well written books. Except for one thing: Nora never let on that she was dying. Reading them posthumously is hard as so many of the essays obliquely foreshadow her death, a funeral oration from beyond the grave written by the deceased in her own, strong voice.
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