In the wake of Nora Ephron’s recent death I was inspired to pick up her last book, a collection of essays and short pieces. Many of them are reflections on growing old, especially poignant to read so soon after the author’s death. The last two pieces in the book are lists — “Things I Won’t Miss” and “Things I Will Miss.” Perhaps Ephron knew she was dying when she wrote those lists, or perhaps even before receiving a terminal diagnosis, the onset of old age gets a thoughtful writer thinking about what she’ll leave behind.
Though most of the pieces are light and many very funny, there’s no doubt that Nora Ephron was a thoughtful writer. My favourite and most eye-opening essay in here is the one in which she talks about her early years in the field of journalism and the institutionalized sexism that everyone in the business took for granted in the 1960s, when Ephron began her career. It’s always a bit of a shock for a woman like me, born at about the time Ephron started her working life, to remember that there was a time when it was quite acceptable to give a woman a lower position, with less pay and few if any opportunities for advancement, than a man starting with the same qualities in the same organization. Even more amazing: that young woman accepted this system and took it for granted. Having the perspective of a woman like Nora Ephron who lived through the game-changing years of the women’s movement is helpful and that essay should be required reading for all young women. She was a witty, insightful writer and the world is a little poorer without her.