The first time I read Nora Ephron, I was in a bookstore in Kathmandu and I was twenty-two and very lonely. I picked up a pink copy of “Heartburn” and sat on the floor of the shop next to my enormous and filthy backpack and I didn’t get up again until I’d finished the book. I no longer felt lonesome.

Ephron’s voice was funny, frank, self-effacing but never self-pitying, and utterly intimate: “That’s how bourgeois I am: at the split second I picked up the pie to throw at Mark, at the split second I was about to do the bravest—albeit the most derivative—thing I had ever done in my life, I thought to myself: Thank God the floor is linoleum and can be wiped up.” She was telling a tale of woe—the story, I didn’t realize at the time, of her famous marriage to Carl Bernstein and its unravelling—but it was somehow deeply comforting: hers was a world where humor always trumped loss.

Ephron, who died of leukemia on Tuesday night at the age of seventy-one, was an artist of consolation, on the page and in her movies. One of the reasons you can watch “Sleepless in Seattle” (which she directed) or “When Harry Met Sally” (which she wrote) over and over again is because not only are they funny, they are profoundly reassuring. She was like that in person, too. “Whatever city you’re in, if you walk into something and get something in your eye, she knows the great eye doctor in that city and immediately gets you over there,” her friend Mike Nichols told me a few years ago when I profiled her. “Nora knows what to do: I think that’s the main thing about her.”
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