Nora Ephron and her then-husband, Carl Bernstein

Warrior. Funny girl. Foremother.

She shocked me. I remember being stunned reading the essay she wrote for Esquire about her breasts. I remember the look of the piece on the page, black and white, no pictures. Just words by Nora about her own breasts. In a way, Nora’s breasts were the anti-feminist journalism analogy of Watergate, the other holy shit story of the century.

Then she married Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who cheated on her while she was pregnant and she wrote a novel about that. Walking past the ratty little grocery store at P and Wisconsin in Georgetown, which she writes about in Heartburn, I thought no person with a real interest in food shops here except people who want to be the member of some other club.

Heartburn is perhaps the most searing exhibit in the long secret Chekhovian history of adult children of alcoholics literature. We can sniff each other out in a crowd of half a million, with a secret power so Delphic and oracular it needs to stay in its room and never come out. It does not play nicely. Its vision is too clear.

Heartburn  was also shocking both for its delicious lima bean and pear recipe and roman a clef portraits of the local wildlife of the 1970s. Power was still an aphrodisiac, the reporters had copped it from the White House, and for one brief shining feral moment, Washington. D.C. was sexy. Nora was there, she got burned, and burned D.C. back.

It was a way, writing about your body, in the 1970s, for girls to do journalism. Her later seamless transition from reporter to movie director — which began when she and Bernstein tried to rewrite William Goldman’s script for All the President’s Men  was shocking. Her keeping the secrets, of her leukemia diagnosis, throughout the filming of her last movie — an encomium both to good cooking and a long, happy marriage — writing on a new television project two weeks before her death, not writing about her son’s being gay, were also shocking. News of her death, if not her suffering, was shocking for all the children who had grown up in a house full of secrets, shaken, not stirred.

Whole civilizations were based on the wrath of Achilles. Vale, Nora.