Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/2/07 3:31 PM

Book review: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

The upside of ageing

A wry look at what most women don’t want to look at.

For all the big name Hollywood hits that she has stacked up after her name, like “Sleepless in Seattle”, “When Harry Met Sally” and “You’ve Got Mail” (not quite in that order), the late Nora Ephron was  no mere Bergdorf blonde.

The last book from the founder of chick lit, a set of brisk essays on reaching a certain age,  fast flew  off bookshelves and it’s no wonder; this is, to use that quaint American term the “go to” book for all women who know ageing is not funny. So okay, it’s not funny but what the hell, you can certainly laugh with Ephron about it.

At one point, Ephron states, “I don’t want to get too serious here.” And that is the point of the book. The writing is crisp, wit with a lash but  a totally empathic lash. She’s been there , done all of that, and is now telling you all about it.

Vicissitudes of life

And by the time you are through reading the vicissitudes of life accounted chronologically, you find that hey, it’s not so bad after all. In fact, you aren’t worrying about a turkey neck or a fading memory, what you are wondering is whether Ephron made up the delicious term “baby whisperer”.

The section on the need for reading glasses is a scream. The book at times doubles as a paean to NYC, not that the reader will have any bones to pick with the author about her freely expressed love for what she says is not only the Big Apple but also the Big Cheese, seeing as to how you can feast on a smorgasbord of fromage in the city that never sleeps.

Just when you begin to be sure the book is one chick-laugh fest, there comes the passionately written section on books and their magic.

Pragmatic survivor

Beneath it all, there runs the very real, very tangible note of a rueful survivor, the pragmatism of one who crests every trough of life only to tell the crackling tale. And for those who know how Ephron was dumped by her second husband Carl Bernstein (he of the Watergate Deep Throat fame) yes, she hasn’t passed up the temptation to make some cracks at him here, too.

Thing is, she was one heck of an entertainer. And no one could  put necks, (in all their dismaying gamut… chicken necks, turkey gobbler necks, elephant necks, wattle, scrawny, fat, loose, crepey, banded, wrinkled, stringy, mottled, saggy, flabby necks) purses, apartments or hair (listen to this gem: not having to worry about your hair is the upside of death) or people in better perspective than Nora Ephron.

Oh, also, no one could  dismiss Africa the way she does (no hairdressers out in the bush, you get the idea), no one could diss Bill Clinton with so much affection; as for her antidote to intimations of mortality (hint: it involves bath oil), that alone is worth the price of the book.

I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman; Nora Ephron; Doubleday; Rs 770.

This ran in THE HINDU LITERARY REVIEW of 2 Sept 2007. 



humourI Feel Bad About My NeckNora Ephron

Sheila Kumar • September 2, 2007

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