Word for Word: Nora Ephron’s literary legacy

A new book celebrates the journalism of a renowned screenwriter and film director

In 1970 the writer and film director Nora Ephron wrote a terrific defence of writing about supposedly fluffy subjects. She had recently appeared on a radio show in which a fellow guest had berated her for writing about the editor of Cosmopolitan while a war was raging in Vietnam.

“Well, I care that there’s a war, and I demonstrate against it,” Ephron wrote. “And I care that there’s a women’s-liberation movement, and I demonstrate for it. But I also go to the movies incessantly, and have my hair done once a week, and cook dinner every night, and spend hours in front of the mirror trying to make my eyes look symmetrical, and I care about those things too. Much of my life goes irrelevantly on, in spite of larger events.”

These days Ephron, who died in 2012, is probably best known for her screenwriting, but long before she wrote Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle she was a successful journalist, writing about everything from publishing and politics to food and feminism.

She continued to write nonfiction throughout her life, as well as writing and directing films and penning a bestselling novel, Heartburn. Some of her most memorable work has now been collected in The Most of Nora Ephron (Doubleday, £20), a wonderful collection that shows what a brilliant writer she was, whether writing about a feminist conference, the Iraq war or growing up flat-chested.


Insightful and frequently very funny, Ephron’s pieces are all perfectly crafted; each begins and ends with a brilliantly arresting line. And although some pieces are very much of their time, most of her writing is still exhilaratingly fresh. She was a committed feminist, and the book includes her 1996 speech to female college graduates in which she advised them to “make a little trouble out there . . . I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”

When Ephron was growing up her screenwriter mother constantly told Nora and her sisters, "Everything is copy." The Most of Nora Ephron is proof of how gloriously witty and wise such copy can be.