From Gail Collins’s affectionate remiscence of Nora Ephron this morning in her NYT op-ed column (“The Best Mailgirl Ever”):
We talked about the grand saga of how the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement one afternoon while she was cooking lunch in the apartment on the East Side where she lived with her husband, Nick Pileggi.
I was envisioning the bad old days giving way to the women’s movement one afternoon right there in Ephron’s kitchen, but then I got to Nick Pileggi and realized I’d succumbed to the lure of Low Attachment, with the one afternoon while … adverbial modifying the lower clause the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement, rather than the higher clause we talked about the grand saga of how the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement. (On attachment ambiguities, see here and here.)
Low Attachment is the default, but other factors favor High Attachment in certain contexts. Here, real-world plausibility certainly favors High Attachment — but the head verb of the lower clause is considerably closer to the adverbial, which tempts the reader towards Low Attachment. Too bad.
On Ephron. The main NYT obit for Ephron was by Charles McGrath, here. In addition to Collins’s piece, Alessandra Stanley did one in the Style section, Janet Maslin one in the Movies section, and Julia Moskin one in the Dining and Wine section, and there’s more in the blogs. Nora Ephron was much loved in New York City.
I was gearing up to do a personal piece, but I don’t think I could improve on Nancy Friedman’s posting in her Fritinancy blog — except to say that Ann Daingerfield Zwicky was a great fan of her essays, and introduced me to them.