July 2, 2007

I Feel Bad About My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Nonfiction - Humor
Finished on 6/29/07
Rating: 4.5/5 Terrific!
Nonfiction Challenge #2

I've just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture -- with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. I was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books I've loved. I composed a dozen imaginary letters to the author, letters I'll never write, much less send. I wrote letters of praise. I wrote letters relating entirely inappropriate personal information about my own experiences with the author's subject matter. I even wrote a letter of recrimination when one of the characters died and I was grief-stricken. But mostly I wrote letters of gratitude: the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read, but it doesn't happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I'm truly beside myself.

Sound familiar? It's pretty much how I felt as I read this hilarous book by Nora Ephron. I absolutely loved it! And my reaction was so completely unexpected. When I first picked the book from my stack for Joy's Nonfiction challenge, I had a vague recollection of a negative review posted on one of my online book groups, but I thought, what the heck, it might not be too bad. I should've known better than to worry. I loved Ephron's movies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail. And I read Heartburn three years ago and enjoyed it very much, too, although something about it put me in a foul mood for several days. Perhaps it was too similar to my first marriage and subsequent divorce.

I Feel Bad About My Neck hit all the marks of a great read. It's laugh-out-loud funny, although my husband failed to see the humor, which I couldn't resist sharing with him as I came upon yet another humorous passage. But then again, he doesn't have to deal with unwanted hair -- he's perfectly happy with his moustache -- doesn't have to worry about the frustrations of carrying a purse, and other female-related issues. This is the sort of book that I thought about when I wasn't reading, tempting me to call in sick until I'd read the final page (which, no, I did not do!). As I read, I thought of several women who would enjoy it as much as I did and had I read it earlier last year, would've bought it for several people on my Christmas list. Ah! And the true sign of a great read is all the dog-eared pages, full of quotable passages. Here is just a small sample:

I can't read a word on the menu. I can't read a word in the weekly television listings. I can't read a word in the cookbook. I can't do the puzzle. I can't read a word in anything at all unless it's written in extremely large type, the larger the better. The other day, on the computer, I pulled up something I wrote three years ago, and it was written in type so small I can't imagine how I wrote the thing in the first place. I used to write in twelve-point type; now I am up to sixteen and thinking about going to eighteen or even twenty. I'm extremely sad about all this. Mostly I'm sad about just plain reading. When I pass a bookshelf, I like to pick out a book from it and thumb through it. When I see a newspaper on the couch, I like to sit down with it. When the mail arrives, I like to rip it open. Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss. 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 pair of them last week on sale and sprinkled them throughout the house, yet none of them is visible. Where are they?

I hate that I need reading glasses. I hate that I can't read a word on the map, in the telephone book, on the menu, in the book, or anywhere else without them. And the pill bottle! I forgot to mention the pill bottle. I can't read a word on the pill bottle. Does it say take two every four hours or take four every two hours? Does it say "Good until 12/8/07" or "Expired. Period. End of Story"? I have no idea what it says, and this is serious. I could die from not being able to read the print on the pill bottle. In fact, the print on the pill bottle is so small I doubt if anyone can read it. I'm not sure I could read it even when I didn't need reading glasses. Although who can remember?


It seemed to me that if I lived in the building for twenty-four years, the fee would amortize out to only a thousand dollars a year, a very small surcharge -- only $2.74 a day, which is less than a cup of cappuccino at Starbucks. Not that there was a Starbucks back then. And not that I was planning to live in the Apthorp for twenty-four years. I was planning to live there forever. Till death did us part. So it would probably amortize out to even less. That's how I figured it. (I should point out that I don't normally use the word "amortize" unless I'm trying to prove that something I can't really afford is not just a bargain but practically free. This usually involves dividing the cost of the item I can't afford by the number of years I'm planning to use it, and if that doesn't work, by the number of days or hours or minutes, until I get to a number that is less than the cost of a cup of cappuccino.)

OK, so maybe these are funnier when you read them in context with the rest of the book. I thought they were funny, but now as I type them they seem to have lost that feeling. You know, that feeling when you nod your head in agreement as you choke on your glass of wine, trying hard not to chortle and spray that delicious Pinot all over the pages and patio furniture? Maybe that's it. Maybe this book requires a glass of wine in order for one to fully appreciate its humor.

This is the sort of book I tend to categorize as an airplane read. It's divided into fairly short chapters (really, a collection of essays) and holds the reader's attention, yet doesn't require too much concentration. Ideal for long layovers or sitting on the tarmac (or helping the pilot keep the plane aloft through sheer force of will). Nothing like a few belly laughs to ease the stress of traveling. Highly recommend!


  1. I thought the part about her having to read things in larger and larger type was hysterical -- even out of context. Possibly because I can so relate to that situation -- especially the pill bottle.

  2. I've been an Ephron fan since high school. I'm looking forward to reading this book!

  3. It was a great lunch hour read, too, and sometimes I even read the same chapter two lunch hours in a row! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I know you had said you had it in your stack to read, but don't remember if I told you you'd love it...but I knew you would!

    I passed it on to a friend who passed it on to another friend, both of whom are in my book club. They proposed it as the book club read for March, and almost everyone loved it (I'm pretty sure it was someone who didn't need reading glasses who just didn't get it).

    My copy got passed around so much that I wasn't sure who had it, so marched myself to HalfPrice to get another. When my first copy made its way home, I mailed the replacement copy to my SIL, since I'd recommended it to her back in November and she hadn't gotten it yet. I kept the first edition/first printing with the pink binding as my own copy.

  4. Anonymous6:10 AM

    I haven't read this one yet but totally related to the first quote (see my "Tallgrass" review). I'll be putting this one on me list to read in short sips.

  5. That whole needing glasses thing...I'm waiting for the arrival of my glasses with BIFOCALS (SHIT!) because I'm tired of cheaters over my contacts. Half the time I forget to bring them with me anyway.

  6. Katya - I never used to need reading glasses, but once I hit 40 my vision started to get pretty bad, at least with regard to reading. I've grown quite dependent on my glasses. Newspapers and phone books are the worst!

    Bybee - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. She does tend to whine a bit which some might take offense to since she's quite well-off, but I was able to overlook that and simply enjoyed the book.

    Janet - I can see how it's one to re-read even within one sitting. I think it'd be a fun book to discuss in a book group. Lots of laughter, I'm sure!

    Kay - I like that: short sips! That's a perfect way to describe how this should be read. Enjoy!

    Bellezza - I'm sorry you have to get bifocals. My hubby had trifocals for a while, but final got Lasik (which was an improvement, but not a cure-all). I still have pretty good vision. Don't need glasses except for reading. However, I have an astigmatism (sp?) so I can't just use those cute little reading glasses you can buy in a store. I have to have a prescription for mine. I tend to wear them on the top of my head (nice headband!) most of the time at work!

  7. Les, I just wrote a report on this book, and had a vague memory of you reading it so I typed the title into the search bar. Oh, my we sure do agree on this one, don't we!! I loved your excerpts. That's the only problem for me writing a book report on an audio book - unless I stop it, get paper and pen, and write it down, I just don't have quotes. But that's okay. I loved it so much. And I'm thrilled you did, too!

  8. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this one as much as I did!! I hope she writes another soon, don't you?

  9. I loved your review. As I read your excerpts, I could hear her voice in my head. What a great book to lighten my mood. BTW, I received the book, "Comfort and Joy." It looks like a fun read and I really appreciate you sending it to me.

  10. Framed - I'm so glad to hear that this is just as good on audio as in the written format. I'll have to get a copy from the library for my next trip. I'm sure I'll laugh myself silly!

    Glad the book arrived. Enjoy!


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