12/09/2010 06:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nora Ephron's Holy Chutzpah

Breaking up is hard to do.

Just ask Nora Ephron, whose divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) in 1980, apparently scarred her for life.

First she poured the emotional energy of her grief into the novel Heartburn, an acerbic tale of Bernstein's affair -- while she was pregnant with their second son -- which, three years later, she turned into a screenplay, and three years after that, a Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The ghosts of lost love, of a woman scorned, of a mother trying to make sense of an adult problem that hurt her kids, resurfaced in her 2006 bestseller I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman. And now, again, Ephron's meditations on divorce, which she refers to as the relationship that "never ends" appear in her latest essay collection I Remember Nothing.

In The D Word, her most recent essay on divorce, Ephron writes:

The most important thing about me, for quite a long chunk of my life, was that I was divorced. Even after I was no longer divorced but remarried, this was true. I have now been married to my third husband for more than twenty years. But when you've had children with someone you're divorced from, divorce defines every¬thing; it's the lurking fact, a slice of anger in the pie of your brain.

But as a writer, the fact that Ephron became subsumed with grief and heartache was a very good thing. It drove her to the pen (or keyboard) and spawned a variety of works that catapulted a prolific writing career and eventual prominence in Hollywood.

In the New York Times Book Review, author Alex Kuczynski wryly wondered:

"Does Carl Bernstein lie awake at night wondering how the hell his ex-wife of so many years ago turned his marital indiscretion into a multimedia juggernaut spanning the decades?"

Perhaps; but what did he expect? It was quite simply the Jewish thing to do.

Ephron is a case in point for the Jewish imperative of turning pain into possibility (Nevermind that in her book, which focuses on aging, she writes that one of things she'll miss when she dies is bacon -- and what she won't miss? "Bar Mitzvahs"). Ephron was raised in a Jewish home in Beverly Hills in which the family religion, as she describes it, was "get over it." Which coheres with Judaism more than Ephron probably knows; Jews aren't allowed to wallow. Even mourning has its limits: 7 days of utter despair (no chairs, no grooming, no sex) followed by a month of mourning (no shaving, no music) and then a year in which life isn't fully lived (no theater, no concerts, no parties).

Read the rest at Hollywood Jew.