Very sad news this evening: Nora Ephron, the writer and filmmaker, died of leukemia at the age of 71. Though she directed many films, including “Sleepless in Seattle” and most recently “Julie & Julia,” she began her career as a journalist and was, I think, always a writer at heart. (Read her collected essays if you want to experience her wit and sophistication; read her novel “Heartburn,” a thinly veiled tale of her bitter divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein, for writing-well-is-the-best-revenge, and some good recipes.) When I think of her, I’ll most often remember “When Harry Met Sally,” one of the great grown-up romantic comedies, which Ephron wrote in 1989 and which is still imitated (and aspired to) today. Here’s its ending, which is vintage Ephron: sentimental music welling; two friends speaking lines that feel utterly right and yet perfectly funny; unabashed, old-fashioned romance. “And then we fell in love.” Best last line of a movie ever? It’s definitely up there.
Ephron’s last collection of essays, the 2010 book “I Remember Nothing, And Other Reflections” hints that she knew that her time was drawing short; it ends simply and touchingly with a list titled “What I Will Miss,” whose entries include “My kids,” “Spring,” “Fall,” “Waffles,” “Reading in bed,” “Twinkle lights,” “Dinner with friends,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “One for the table,” “Taking a bath,” and “Pie.” Here’s something I will miss: knowing that Nora Ephron was out there, in her beloved New York, writing something I couldn’t wait to read. Say hello to Dorothy Parker for me, Ms. E. Rest in peace.