Author: Nora Ephron
Genre/Year: Personal Essays, 2006
Two Sentence Summary: Think getting old and being a woman is kinda funny? So does Nora Ephron!
One Sentence Review: A solid essay collection, but one that I’m not quite wise enough to totally understand.
Summary: Nora Ephron’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck is a collection of essays about aging as a woman. The essays range in topic from perfect apartments to growing up to first jobs and other life lessons. It’s hard to summarize more than that, I think, because the book covers such a variety. One thing all the essays have in common, however, is a sort of irreverent look at how life changes when we’re not really expecting it.
Review: Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with this collection, but am glad I read it. I loved that each of the essays in this book used a slightly different format; sometimes essayists will fall into a trap where each chapter follows a similar sort of structure which gets a little predictable. While the first few essays in this book are similar, the pieces in the last half switch length and format drastically while still holding on to Ephron’s self-deprecating sense of humor.
My favorite essay was “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less.” In this piece, Ephron characterizes her life in a series of short vignettes, each no more than about 200 words. I love this in part because it supports my own belief that the best things in life are the tiny moments we make time to remember and because it gives you a picture of what the most important moments were to her. Here’s an example:
I’m going to be a newspaper reporter forever
It’s 1963. I’ve written a piece for a parody of the New York Post during a long newspaper strike. The editors of the Post are upset about the parody, but the publisher of the Post is amused. “If they can parody the Post, they can write for it,” she says. Hire them.” When the strike ends, I’m give a one-week tryout at the Post. The city room is dusty, dingy, and dark. The desks are dilapidated and falling apart. It smells terrible. There aren’t enough phones. The city editor sense me to the Coney Island aquarium to cover the story of two hooded seals who’ve been brought together to mate but have refused to have anything to do with each other. I write a story. I think it’s funny. I turn it in. I hear laughter from the city desk. They think it’s funny too. I’m hired permanently. I have never been happier. I have achieved my life’s ambition, and I am twenty-two years old.
I’m sure you can guess why that’s one of my favorite passages. The rest of the essay goes along in that fashion until Ephron brings it sort of full circle in a way that’s just awesome.
The only thing that kept this essay collection from being one I’d read over and over again right now is that I don’t think I’m quite the target audience. A lot of the lessons and observations are from someone who has lived for a long time and has seen the sort of ebb and flow that life has. I haven’t had that quite yet, so some of the essays didn’t connect with me as well as they might have. This is a book that I would love to read later in my life though, because I think it will hit home a little bit more then.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!