I Feel Bad About My Neck By Nora Ephron
I have been reading Nora Ephron essays and novels, on and off, for the past several months. When her most recent book I Feel Bad About My Neck was released recently it garnered front page reviews in the American newspapers and magazines - even Oprah noticed and had her on the Oprah show. This is the best advertising any book can receive - a spot on Oprah translates into immediate book sales - even in Parry Sound. I remembered that Nora Ephron was the screenwriter for You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally, which I watched recently on a “films featuring New York City” kick of watching DVDs. The beauty of DVDs is the extras, one an especially wonderful interview with Nora Ephron. I then read her book of early essays Crazy Salad - 1970s, feminist consciousness raising - women’s issues - a wonderful time capsule of women wanting more than cook-offs - or not. Marie Antoinette
They are absolutely perfectly cutting, witty and sharp - should be required reading - to be studied by every would-be journalist who wants to learn how to write - unless they want to be like Dorothy Schiff, publisher of the New York Post in the 1970s. Nora Ephron writes, “Dorothy Schiff has a right to run her newspaper any way she likes. She owns it. But it seems never to have crossed her mind that she might have a public obligation to produce a good newspaper. Gail Sheehy quite cleverly compared her with Scheherazade, but it would be more apt, I think, to compare her with Marie Antoinette. As in let them read schlock.”
Nora Ephron often looks at life as “copy”. Just as Heartburn, published in 1983, was a thinly disguised novel about the end of her own first marriage. This novel is the sad but very funny saga of a marriage gone wrong. Rachel Samstat married for the second time - for love - she leaves her career as a food writer in Manhattan for the role as wife of a journalist, Mark Forman, in Washington. She loves her husband, her life as his wife, even though she detests Washington, where the gossip mill is ever flowing and the dinner conversation is as boring as hell. All is well until Rachel discovers that her husband is having an affair - she is 38 years old, and five months pregnant with her second child.
This is not a happy situation in fiction or in life - but Nora Ephron is such a good writer that she can find ways to make this all laugh-out-loud funny - if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry kind of funny. I watched the movie after I read the book. Nora Ephron was the scriptwriter for this 1986 film, with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson - who can admire and undress a woman with his eyes as no one else can. Even Jack Nicholson couldn’t save this film. It might be good if you haven’t read the book but I don’t think so. The book is a treat (I don’t think husbands would appreciate the humour but I believe that wives will love it).
I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman, Nora Ephron’s most recent book is delicious - like a big box of assorted chocolates, to be savoured slowly, perhaps one a day if you have the will power not to devour them all in one sitting. Some will be your favourites, the caramel crèmes, and others not quite so perfect.
She writes, “Just before I moved to New York (city), two historic events had occurred: The birth control pill had been invented, and the first Julia Child cookbook was published. As a result everyone was having sex, and when the sex was over, you cooked something.”
This collection of essays includes many about women and aging - one called On Maintenance talks about the amount of effort required to walk out the door, as Nora Ephron writes “today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all”, and hair colour is the least of it. And, on reading glasses, “But my ability to pick something up and read it - which has gone unchecked all my life up until now - is now entirely dependent on the whereabouts of my reading glasses. I look around. Why aren’t they in this room? I bought six pairs of them last week on sale and sprinkled them throughout the house, yet none of them are visible. Where are they?”
Parenting in Three Stages is very funny, expressing my own view exactly, that, thank God, I raised my children before “parenting” existed.
She writes of her love for New York City in Moving On, and again in Where I Live - wonderful, funny essays about this great city. As the collection comes to an end the essays become somewhat more serious - but always tempered with Nora Ephron’s ability to see the light side - as she writes about the serious concerns of aging and the deaths of friends, and the decisions that must be made as we age.
If you are a woman in the 50 to 60 something age range you will laugh out loud with these essays, and if you’re not – to quote Nora Ephron, “If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty four.”