I Feel Bad About My Neck
And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
By Nora Ephron
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307264558, 160pp.)
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
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With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.
The woman who brought us When Harry Met Sally . . . , Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Bewitched, and the author of best sellers Heartburn, Scribble Scribble, and Crazy Salad, discusses everything—from how much she hates her purse to how much time she spends attempting to stop the clock: the hair dye, the treadmill, the lotions and creams that promise to slow the aging process but never do. Oh, and she can’t stand the way her neck looks. But her dermatologist tells her there’s no quick fix for that.
Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She recounts her anything-but-glamorous days as a White House intern during the JFK years (“I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the President did not make a pass at”) and shares how she fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton—from a distance, of course. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age.
Utterly courageous, wickedly funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a book of wisdom, advice, and laugh-out-loud moments, a scrumptious, irresistible treat.
Nora Ephron is also the author of Wallflower at the Orgy. She received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally..., Silkwood, and Sleepless in Seattle, which she also directed. Her other credits include the film Michael and the play Imaginary Friends. She lives in New York City with her husband, writer Nicholas Pileggi.
“Nora Ephron, 65 years old in I Feel Bad About My Neck, pokes fun at her own eccentricities and finds herself writing about ‘lunch with my girlfriends–I got that far into the sentence and caught myself. I suppose I mean my women friends. We are no longer girls and have not been for forty years.’ But [I Feel Bad About My Neck is a] girlfriend book, and in the best way. . . . Ephron, who is a great wit, has made a career out of women’s body anxieties. The magazine piece that made her famous in the 1970s, ‘A Few Words about Breasts,’ is a long kvetch about her flat chest . . . Now, though, Ephron kvetches about her wrinkled neck, the one part of a woman’s aging body that can’t be resurfaced. She and the ladies who lunch with her all wear scarves or turtlenecks to hide their ‘shame.’ . . . Ephron [is] unfailingly clever and often pokes fun at our preoccupations while sharing them. . . . I Feel Bad About My Neck has everything I want in an entertaining read: a breezy pace, wry musings, copious doses of gossip, humor, and new information. . . . Ephron produces perfect vignettes. . . . [When I finished I Feel Bad About My Neck, I] felt the ‘rapture’ that Ephron says you feel on completing a great book. . . . [Books] have always been faithful pals, and [this one is] among the best. . . . [Get] your friends of a certain age together, rent Silkwood (which I think is Ephron’s best film), read [her book] together, and argue and laugh and cry. That’s my prescription.”
–Emily Toth, Women’s Review of Books
“The subtitle to this book of autobiographical essays by the pithy, witty Ephron–‘and other thoughts on being a woman’–says it all. Chapters include brilliant, biting essays on such things as wrinkly necks, bad handbags, and being a parent. You’ll laugh out loud at her spot-on observations, but there’s something wonderfully poignant about Ephron’s list of things worth knowing, and how to live out one’s life feeling satisfied. A heartwarming little book.”
–Easy Living magazine (UK)
“What’s refreshing about Ephron is that she refuses to entertain any illusions about the terrible fate that awaits us. What’s great about her is that she makes the truth about life so funny when it should be so grim.”
–Christopher Goodwin, The Sunday Times (UK)
“Ephron’s laugh-out-loud collection tells the truth about aging–it’s not fun–and ‘she does it with humor and satire and perspective,’ says [Roxanne Coady of R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn.]. With blithe charm, Ephron exposes all the vain ploys that she–and we–would rather not admit we use to stave off another telltale wrinkle or gray hair. Read her book as an antidote to despair.”
–U.S. News & World Report
“Now 65, the humorist offers a bracing take on aging in 15 memorable essays. Her finely honed wit is as fresh as ever.”
–People magazine, Top 10 Books of 2006
“As if wrinkles and belly flab weren’t enough, women of a certain age have to fret about their turkey necks, too–so says the sage, dry, and hilarious Nora Ephron . . . Her droll take on traditionally gooey topics like motherhood and marriage makes the tender observations that much more unexpected . . . [A] sparkling series of essays.”
–Ladies Home Journal
“Delightful . . . [A] funny, sisterly collection . . . Where books written for seniors are apt to be full of unconvincing cheer, Ephron’s charming book of self-questioning, confession, and resolve faces the reality that she’s sixty-five, dyes her hair, and is not happy about her neck, her purse, her failure at ambitious exercise programs, and other personal failures shared by many of us . . . None of these confrontations with mortality is arcane, all are universal, and people of either sex can relate to them . . . Many readers of I Feel Bad About My Neck will be familiar already with Ephron the accomplished human being . . . She’s one of only a few American essayists with a public persona–one thinks of Will Rogers, or Calvin Trillin, maybe Benjamin Franklin, Steve Martin, and Woody Allen . . . [She has] a talent for incisive compression and accessibility confided in a sort of plainspoken Will Rogers manner . . . . The hapless character Ephron has presented over the years may be the real Ephron, or not. The actual Ephron is praised by friends as smart, a perfect housekeeper, much prettier than the person she began depicting in Wallflower at the Orgy, her essays from the Seventies, a wonderful cook, etc., etc. It’s sound rhetorical strategy. Of all the ways to be funny, self-deprecation is more endearing than satire . . . . All in all, this funny book offers the pleasures of recognition; in an anxious world, her epigrams have a serious, consoling utility.”
–Diane Johnson, The New York Review of Books
“OK, so Nora Ephron is 65 now. Not to me, she’s not. She’s still that young smartass who used to rule the pages of Esquire . . . That was entertainment. She’s still entertaining . . . Ephron’s new look-back is a delight of a book that you can inhale in a single sitting . . . . When she’s funny, as she is in I Feel Bad About My Neck, she becomes a [writer] who won’t give her readers a rest from the bellowing laughter. Sixty-five ain’t old when you’re Nora Ephron.”
–Dan Smith, Blue Ridge Business Journal
“I like short books. In fact, when I’m at the bookstore, I tilt my head to the right and scan the shelves for books with the skinniest spines. I Feel Bad About My Neck was one I wished were longer. Ephron, journalist, novelist and screenwriter, bemoans getting old and all the maintenance needed just to tread water. But she does it in her inimitable, witty style. You don’t come away depressed as much as invigorated . . . [She] brings [her] funny but serious approach to this latest work.”
–Elizabeth Pezzulo, The Free Lance-Star
“You might think that I Feel Bad About My Neck is not a book for foodies. You would think wrong. I Feel Bad About My Neck is so witty and so much about food in our lives, that every Foodie should read it. This is the kind of book that will make you laugh out loud on the Amtrak train to the chagrin of other passengers buried deep in The Wall Street Journal. You may have to force yourself not to wave it under their noses, shouting, ‘Get this book!’ . . . . It rings funny and true at the same time.”
–Juliette Rossant, SuperChefBlog
“Clever . . . . [I Feel Bad About My Neck is] laced with wry observations, told in an intimate style that makes Ephron seem like a close friend spilling details about her life . . . [Ephron] has punctured many a bubble of conformity and made audiences laugh in recognition . . . [She] will keep you entertained.”
–April Austin, Christian Science Monitor
“Maybe Nora Ephron has become timeless . . . Certainly she writes, for all her funny commentary on modern life, like someone who has something useful and important to tell her readers . . . She’s figured something out that she wants to let you in on, and to make it palatable she’ll make you laugh.”
–Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Before Nora Ephron the director, or Nora Ephron the screenwriter, or even before Nora Ephron the novelist, there was Nora Ephron the journalist and essayist. That Nora Ephron, known for her wit, candor and vulnerability, has returned and is holding forth in I Feel Bad About My Neck . . . Sales have been brisk, no doubt because it’s the kind of book women don’t get only for themselves; they purchase copies for their best friends and sisters, and buy more to be given as birthday gifts and party favors. Women who find themselves somewhere between the arrival of their first wrinkle and death have to hear only the title to get the message. They get it that she gets it, and thank God for that.”
–Mimi Avins, Los Angeles Times
“[A] stylistic tour de force . . . Fireworks shoot out [of this collection] . . . The smaller blazes are bursts of wit that cast the familiar so sharply as to make it seem new . . . There are [also] passages where wit is used not to entertain but to lament . . . to take arms against life or death (where loss, however blithely sketched, is no joke at all) . . . The comic and rueful are still there, but they take on resonance.”
–Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“Youth may be wasted on the young, but everyone can enjoy the hurdles and highlights of aging with Ephron’s witty and deeply personal essays on getting older . . . and yes, wiser.”
–Life Magazine (“Life 5” Editors’ Pick)
“[W]ry and amusing . . . . [M]arvelous.”
–Bunny Crumpacker, Washington Post Book World
“I belly laugh[ed] at this compilation of essays by Nora Ephron, a book that includes subjects every woman can identify with, regardless of her age . . . I [plan] to order multiple copies as gifts, knowing my girlfriends [will] get as much of a charge out of the book as I have.”
–Chris Stuckenschneider, The Missourian
“This is a book about age and regret. Since it’s by Nora Ephron, it’s funny . . . . This delightful collection of personal essays . . . [is written] by a truly smart woman [who] disarms . . . by mocking her own anguish in a style that veers between hey-girlfriend coziness and wit . . . . Ephron has me in her pocket: I’m absolutely on her side and feel that she’s on mine, that we’re in this together . . . . Sublime.”
–Anna Shapiro, The New York Observer
“We have Nora Ephron to thank for this wonderful girlfriend’s guide to aging. In I Feel Bad About My Neck, Ephron perfects her ‘vintage whine’ in a series of essays conveying everything from beauty regimes to Manhattan real estate. There is little cheerleading here for the joys of acquired wisdom or the age-defying results of botox and collagen–since the neck is still a giveaway–hence the title . . . . There are small victories, however, which Ephron chronicles along with her life as overachieving cook, loyal friend and mother, hard-working writer and fashion frump who disses purses but loves black turtlenecks . . . . She shares heartfelt ardor for her friends–especially one who passed away–her passion for cooking, including recipes for successful dinner parties . . . Ephron’s insights make the book an enjoyable romp. [She’ll] make you laugh at her laments. You’ll also be grateful for her honesty. One of her best lines is her retort to a baby-boomer editor who complains that too many women over 60 talk about how things were better ‘in my day.’ ‘But it isn’t our day,’ Ephron tells the editor. ‘It’s their day. We’re just hanging on.’ For people who want a little candor and humor about not only hanging on but getting on, this book is for you.”
–Jill Brooke, New York Post
“In her latest essay collection . . . Ephron offers rearview reflections on her life as a talker and writer, as well as a flinching but honest look at the image she lately confronts in the mirror. Like her fellow Upper West Side loyalist Jerry Seinfeld, she has found a lot of ‘something’ in the ‘nothing’ of everyday life. In the manner of all natural-born embroiders, Ephron augments tales she has told before and also divulges new insights, grievances, and gossip . . . . Nothing is off limits to her, even personal humiliation–especially personal humiliation . . . [But] Ephron has owned her laughs for several decades . . . . [S]he doesn’t wallow. Instead, she does what she has always done–she buries . . . bad news under a barrage of shareable anecdotes, humorous self-deprecation and womanly bravado . . . . Through [30 years of writing], her focus has remained on the heart. This current gatherum of hard and funny truths spares neither the author’s pride nor her audience’s, but it does salve wounds, and many of Ephron’s insights are bound to come in handy.”
–Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
“Wickedly funny . . . [Nora Ephron’s] candid, witty tales about life and love will put everything into perspective.”
“Witty. . . . sharp . . . . readily accessible to all . . . . [Ephron] is as funny as ever . . . . What is so refreshing about Ephron is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously . . . . [She has] a knack for finding the significant in the mundane, and for making readers feel like they’ve been welcomed into [her] inner circle of friends to share lipsticks and life’s licks. [Her] best lines probably get read aloud as often as ‘Goodnight Moon.’”
“Before Nora Ephron became a Hollywood maven with her screenplays for movies such as ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ ‘Heartburn,’ ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ and ‘When Harry Met Sally…’, she was a wickedly witty and astute writer of essays and articles. Ephron returns to her print roots with a new collection of essays reflecting the perspective of an aging–but still crackling sharp–cultural scribe.”
“I Feel Bad About My Neck is . . . long-overdue . . . . [T]hese essays . . . [are] executed with overall sharpness and panache . . . . [Nora Ephron] retains an uncanny ability to sound like your best friend, whoever you are . . . . Some things don’t change. It’s good to know that Ms. Ephron’s wry, knowing X-ray vision is one of them.”
–Janet Maslin, New York Times
“In her latest book of essays . . . [Ephron] is as funny and poignant as ever. This time around she rails against aging (‘Oh, the necks . . . ’), decides adolescence is for parents and reveals her non-affair with JFK.”
"By the time Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck comes out, in August, you'll be feeling the heat–or maybe just a hot flash–in which case her reflections on looking at your saggy, baggy neck in the mirror (she advises squinting) . . . will be just the cool comfort you need. Use this wryly romantic book as a guide to musing about mortality, or just curling up in your empty nest."
–O: Oprah magazine
"[S]parkling . . . [T]his collection is . . . a thoughtful concession to pre- and post-menopausal women (who else is there?) . . . who 'can’t read a word on the pill bottle,'follow a thought to a conclusion, or remember the thought after not being able to read the pill bottle . . . . [R]efreshing . . . witty . . . delightful . . . . While signs of mortality proliferate, Ephron offers a rebuttal of consequence: an intelligent, alert, entertaining perspective that does not take itself too seriously. (If you can't laugh, after all, you are already, technically speaking, dead.)"
–Tony Bentley, Publishers Weekly, signature review
"A disparate assortment of sharp and funny pieces revealing the private anguishes, quirks and passions of a woman on the brink of senior citizenhood. Ephron . . . . explores the woes of aging with honesty–hair-coloring and Botox are standard treatments, as is getting a mustache wax–but maintaining a 60-plus body is only her starting point. Ephron includes breezy accounts of her culinary misadventures, her search for the perfect cabbage strudel and her dissatisfaction with women’s purses. An essay on her love affair and eventual disenchantment with the Apthorp apartment building on Manhattan’s West Side deftly captures both the changes in New York City and in her own life . . . "