WOMEN WE LOVE

7 things I learnt from Nora Ephron’s Last Interview

On the publication of the journalist and screenwriter's last-ever interview, Sam Baker picks some very valuable life lessons 

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By Sam Baker on

Sometimes I ask myself: what would Nora Ephron do? (I'm a fully paid-up fangirl, I admit.) Often, I just stop to wonder what she would think about the social-media obsession of the day. Where, for instance, she would stand on the cult status of the avocado, the proliferation of Twitter trolls or the fact that, a mere seven days into 2016, we have already hit peak New Year's resolution. (And, for that matter, peak "peak", but that's a whole other conversation.) I'm not adverse to a bit of self-improvement. It's not for me to say if you want to be a bit thinner, or a bit fitter, drink a bit less or move a bit more (I could probably do with all four) but, this year, the "new year, new you" obsession seems to have reached epic proportions. Proportions that I can't help feeling Nora would have had a few things to say about.

Sadly, we're never going to get to know whether Nora would have countenanced swapping spaghetti for courgetti and Instagramming it (I vote no), so we'll have to content ourselves with this new collection of conversations – Nora Ephron: The Last Interview – published today. In a small way, at least, a little bit of Nora is here to crack open a bottle of red, pull up a chair at your kitchen table and dispense a little bit of wisdom about what really matters in 2016...

1 DON’T EXPECT ANYONE TO HAND YOU ANYTHING ON A PLATE

“I knew enough not to go get a job as a reporter at some little newspaper and hope that someone would knock on my door one day… I just inched my way forward…. If you don’t really want something, it’s hard… Sometimes, I speak at film schools and I speak to rooms of women. And they’re very, very nice women, but you can see that they don’t understand that it takes this huge amount of will and energy for anything to happen to you.”

2 The only way to learn is to keep doing something new

“I divide my life into decades. Almost every 10 years, something in my work life changed. My twenties were my journalistic phase, then then there was my screenwriting phase, then I became a director…”

3 Women are allowed to be ambitious – it’s successful that’s the problem

“I think you’re very safe as an ambitious woman if you haven’t succeeded. I think there’s no question that women are jealous of other women and men, of course, have their own problems with women. It’s a weird thing because it’s a fact, and yet you have to behave as if it’s not a fact. Here’s the given: it’s really hard for women. People are going to attack you in a way that feels more virulent than it does for men.”

4 You will never stop trying to please your mother

“In our house, unlike 99.9 per cent of all women our age, we were basically instructed to go out and have careers. Especially if you have a mother who’s as powerful as ours was – and as simultaneously withholding – or powerful on account of that, who knows which… but part of your ambition comes from a desire to please her. Long after she is on the planet, by the way.”

5 FIND someone who thinks you ROCK

“I’m so lucky to be with somebody who thinks what I do is great. [Her third husband, Nick Pileggi.] My sister Delia and I adapted this book called Love, Loss, And What I Wore for the stage. There’s a part in it that’s basically Delia’s story of the end of her first marriage. She and her husband were fighting because he didn't want her to write any more. She had co-written one book at the time, which was called The Adventurous Crocheter. And she sat there during this horrible argument, saying the first sentence of the book over and over in her head: "There is no wrong way to crochet, there are good ways, and bad ways, but there is no wrong way to crochet...” That part really rings a bell for me…. And you can barely call that book a success. It’s not as though The Adventurous Crocheter was a bestseller! He was just threatened because she had done *something*."

6 Know when to let it go

"Even at the time [of her divorce from her second husband, Carl Bernstein], I was able to not be too horribly victimy about the whole thing. I just don’t have that thing. I’m really opposed to it. And I have friends who, four or five years after a divorce, are still complaining about it, or still in court, or still tied in crazy ways to the experience of the end of their marriage. I just have no patience for it at all… 'It’s like move on, get over it, this is it'."

7 Don’t look back

“[I never think of the fate of my characters] Why would you do that? One of the great things about movies is that it’s just that short period of time. It’s a bubble. The last thing you want to know is that Elizabeth and Darcy had a fight over how to treat the servants.”

 

              

Nora Ephron: The Last Interview and Other Conversations is published today, by Melville House

@sambaker

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Sam Baker
Nora Ephron

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