I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

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Overview

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.

Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age....

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I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

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Overview

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.

Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age. Utterly courageous, uproariously funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a scrumptious, irresistible treat of a book, full of truths, laugh out loud moments that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In I Feel Bad About My Neck the late Nora Ephron writes about distinctly female concerns: her neck and its truth-telling properties, the chaos and insistent demands of a pocketbook, the deeper meaning of cookbooks, the hourly and financial toll of looking presentable (and largely past–boyfriend proof), and the shifting conversations of parenting (from you are not getting a tiara to using the tiara as a bargaining chip). She also includes a flash-biography and a list of Nora aphorisms. As expected from the writer of When Harry Met Sally and the writer and director of Julie & Julia and You’ve Got Mail, these 15 intimate, confessional, and witty essays are as warm, supportive, and charming as having lunch with your funniest and smartest friends.

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Bunny Crumpacker
Despite the elegiac tone of this collection, it would be nice to think that we'll have Nora Ephron around for a long time. She's always good for an amusing line, a wry smile, and sometimes an abashed grin of recognition as she homes in on one of our own dubious obsessions.
— The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
This brief, long-overdue book is for readers still willing to buy into Ms. Ephron’s familiar writing persona: that of a sharp, funny, theatrically domesticated New Yorker who can throw both arrows and good money at the petty things that plague her. When she says that she can trace the history of the last 40 years through changing trends in lettuce, she isn’t kidding.
ק The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The honest truth is that it's sad to be over sixty," concludes Nora Ephron in her sparkling new book about aging. With 15 essays in 160 pages, this collection is short, a thoughtful concession to pre- and post-menopausal women (who else is there?), like herself, 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. Ephron drives the truth home like a nail in your soon-to-be-bought coffin: "Plus, you can't wear a bikini." But just as despair sets in, she admits to using "quite a lot of bath oil... I'm as smooth as silk." Yes, she is. This is aging lite-but that might be the answer. Besides, there's always Philip Roth for aging heavy. Ephron, in fact, offers a brief anecdote about Roth, in a chapter on cooking, concerning her friend Jane, who had a one-night stand, long ago, with the then "up-and-coming" writer. He gave Jane a copy of his latest book. "Take one on your way out," he said. Conveniently, there was a box of them by the front door. Ephron refuses to analyze-one of her most refreshing qualities-and quickly moves on to Jane's c leri remoulade. Aging, according to Ephron, is one big descent-and who would argue? (Well, okay-but they'd lose the argument if they all got naked.) There it is, the steady spiraling down of everything: body and mind, breasts and balls, dragging one's self-respect behind them. Ephron's witty riffs on these distractions are a delightful antidote to the prevailing belief that everything can be held up with surgical scaffolding and the drugs of denial. Nothing, in the end, prevents the descent. 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.) She does, however, concede that hair maintenance-styling, dyeing, highlighting, blow-drying-is a serious matter, not to mention the expense. "Once I picked up a copy of Vogue while having my hair done, and it cost me twenty thousand dollars. But you should see my teeth." Digging deeper, she discovers that your filthy, bulging purse containing numerous things you don't need-and couldn't find if you did-is, "in some absolutely horrible way, you." Ephron doesn't shy away from the truth about sex either, and confesses, though with an appropriate amount of shame, that despite having been a White House intern in 1961, she did not have an affair with JFK. May Ephron, and her purse, endure so she can continue to tell us how it goes. Or, at least, where it went. Toni Bentley is the author, most recently, of Sisters of Salome and The Surrender, an Erotic Memoir. She is writing about Emma, Lady Hamilton, for the Eminent Lives series. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Not going gently into that good night: funny essays on women resisting aging, baby-boomer style. With a nine-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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, whose screenwriting credits include Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and Silkwood, has brought together 15 essays, most of them previously published in the New York Times, the New Yorker or assorted women's/fashion magazines. She 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. There's an unusual pairing of presidential pieces: A lighthearted piece on her non-encounter with Kennedy when she was a White House intern in the 1960s is followed by a fiercely astringent one on the failings of Bill Clinton. Some of the pieces, such as her essay on parenting, seem tentative, and two, "The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less" and "What I Wish I'd Known," read like works in progress, suggesting that they may have been rushed into print to fill the pages of a too-small book. One doesn't need to be a post-menopausal New Yorker with a liberal outlook and comfortable income to enjoy Ephron's take on life, but those who fit the profile will surely relish it most. First printing of 60,000
From the Publisher
“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.”
Tango Magazine

“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.’”
Newsday Sunday

“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.”
Boston Globe

“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.”
Ms. Magazine

"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 . . . "
Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307276827
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 56,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nora Ephron
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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

What I Wish I’d Known

People have only one way to be.

Buy, don’t rent.

Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced
from.

Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or
less beige.

Don’t buy anything that is 100 percent wool even if it
seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when
you try it on in the store.

You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.

Block everyone on your instant mail.

The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and
a half years.

You never know.

The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of
money.

The plane is not going to crash.

Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age
of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty-
five.

At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just
above your waist even if you are painfully thin.

This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially
visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate
half the clothes in your closet, especially the white
shirts.

Write everything down.

Keep a journal.

Take more pictures.

The empty nest is underrated.

You can order more than one dessert.

You can’t own too many black turtleneck sweaters.

If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it’s never going
to fit.

When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have
a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.

Back up your files.

Overinsure everything.

Whenever someone says the words “Our friendship is
more important than this,” watch out, because it almost
never is.

There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.

The reason you’re waking up in the middle of the night
is the second glass of wine.

The minute you decide to get divorced, go see a lawyer
and file the papers.

Overtip.

Never let them know.

If only one third of your clothes are mistakes, you’re
ahead of the game.

If friends ask you to be their child’s guardian in case
they die in a plane crash, you can say no.

There are no secrets.

Excerpted from I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron Copyright © 2006 by Nora Ephron. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Introduction

“Wickedly witty. . . . Crackling sharp. . . . Fireworks shoot out [of this collection].”
The Boston Globe

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group's discussion of I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron's disarming, intimate, frank, and often hilarious essays about coping—or failing to cope—with growing older.

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Foreword

1. In “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” Ephron writes that she avoids making truthful comments on how her friends look, even when they ask her directly [pp. 3–4]. Why is this a wise decision? She says, “the neck is a dead giveaway” [p. 5]. When women seek each other's opinions about how their necks, and other features, really look, do they want the truth, or do they want to be reassured?

2. According to Ephron, most authors who write about aging say “it great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow” [p. 7]. What, for her, is wrong with this approach? How would you compare I Feel Bad About My Neck with other books you have read about aging or menopause? Is it more useful?

3. In “I Hate My Purse,” Ephron sees her purse as a microcosm of her life—it is the symbol of her inability to be organized. Given the current obsession with expensive purses in American fashion, why is her choice of a plastic MetroCard bag amusing [pp. 15–16]?

4. What do the foods we cook, the cookbook authors we seek to emulate, and the way we entertain guests, say about how we want life to be? Why does Ephron give up her attachment to Craig Claiborne and begin “to make a study of Lee Bailey” [p. 26], and then later move on to Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson?

5. Heartburn was a “thinly disguised novel about the end of my marriage” [p. 28]. If you have read Heartburn or seen the film, think about how Ephron presents her current stage in life, and what has changed for her. What is her attitude as she reflects on earlier and more difficult periods of her life?

6.Ephron writes, “I sometimes think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death” [p. 32]. She also says that going to a hair salon twice a week and having her hair blown dry is “cheaper by far than psychoanalysis, and much more uplifting” [p. 34]. For Ephron, “maintenance” has larger implications than just taking care of one's appearance. What are the larger meanings of these annoying, repetitive actions, for her—and by implication, for women in general?

7. What would this book be like if written by a man? Do men have similar issues about growing older, and do they talk or think about them in similar ways? Think about and share ideas about what well-known man—a writer or a celebrity, perhaps—might be capable of writing the male version of I Feel Bad About My Neck.

8. In “Parenting in Three Stages,” Ephron revises some commonly held notions. Adolescence, for instance, is a period that helps parents separate from their children, and there is “almost nothing you can do to make life easier for yourself except wait until it's over” [p. 62]. Later in the book she says, “the empty nest is underrated” [p. 125]. How does being in her sixties, with her children out of the house, change Ephron's perspective on motherhood?

9. In “Moving On,” Ephron writes about an important and prolonged episode in her past: a love affair with an apartment building. How does she eventually “move on”? Does this essay suggest that she has become more pragmatic with time? How does she change her mind about what makes sense for her, as she gets older?

10. Why is “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” such an effective way of telling one's life story? What does Ephron focus on as the most important issues in this miniaturized autobiography? What lessons has she learned?

11. While this is undoubtedly a funny and enjoyable book, in what ways is it also a serious book? What are Ephron's most important insights in “Considering the Alternative”?

12. What, if anything, does I Feel Bad About My Neck have to say about the benefits of growing older?

13. Certain small pieces in this collection might provoke you and members of your group to try writing your own version. What would you include, for instance, in your own list of “What I Wish I'd Known”?

14. What is the funniest moment in this collection, and why?

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Reading Group Guide

1. In “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” Ephron writes that she avoids making truthful comments on how her friends look, even when they ask her directly [pp. 3–4]. Why is this a wise decision? She says, “the neck is a dead giveaway” [p. 5]. When women seek each other's opinions about how their necks, and other features, really look, do they want the truth, or do they want to be reassured?

2. According to Ephron, most authors who write about aging say “it great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow” [p. 7]. What, for her, is wrong with this approach? How would you compare I Feel Bad About My Neck with other books you have read about aging or menopause? Is it more useful?

3. In “I Hate My Purse,” Ephron sees her purse as a microcosm of her life—it is the symbol of her inability to be organized. Given the current obsession with expensive purses in American fashion, why is her choice of a plastic MetroCard bag amusing [pp. 15–16]?

4. What do the foods we cook, the cookbook authors we seek to emulate, and the way we entertain guests, say about how we want life to be? Why does Ephron give up her attachment to Craig Claiborne and begin “to make a study of Lee Bailey” [p. 26], and then later move on to Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson?

5. Heartburn was a “thinly disguised novel about the end of my marriage” [p. 28]. If you have read Heartburn or seen the film, think about how Ephron presents her current stage in life, and what has changed for her. What is her attitude as she reflects on earlier and more difficult periods of her life?

6. Ephron writes, “I sometimes think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death” [p. 32]. She also says that going to a hair salon twice a week and having her hair blown dry is “cheaper by far than psychoanalysis, and much more uplifting” [p. 34]. For Ephron, “maintenance” has larger implications than just taking care of one's appearance. What are the larger meanings of these annoying, repetitive actions, for her—and by implication, for women in general?

7. What would this book be like if written by a man? Do men have similar issues about growing older, and do they talk or think about them in similar ways? Think about and share ideas about what well-known man—a writer or a celebrity, perhaps—might be capable of writing the male version of I Feel Bad About My Neck.

8. In “Parenting in Three Stages,” Ephron revises some commonly held notions. Adolescence, for instance, is a period that helps parents separate from their children, and there is “almost nothing you can do to make life easier for yourself except wait until it's over” [p. 62]. Later in the book she says, “the empty nest is underrated” [p. 125]. How does being in her sixties, with her children out of the house, change Ephron's perspective on motherhood?

9. In “Moving On,” Ephron writes about an important and prolonged episode in her past: a love affair with an apartment building. How does she eventually “move on”? Does this essay suggest that she has become more pragmatic with time? How does she change her mind about what makes sense for her, as she gets older?

10. Why is “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” such an effective way of telling one's life story? What does Ephron focus on as the most important issues in this miniaturized autobiography? What lessons has she learned?

11. While this is undoubtedly a funny and enjoyable book, in what ways is it also a serious book? What are Ephron's most important insights in “Considering the Alternative”?

12. What, if anything, does I Feel Bad About My Neck have to say about the benefits of growing older?

13. Certain small pieces in this collection might provoke you and members of your group to try writing your own version. What would you include, for instance, in your own list of “What I Wish I'd Known”?

14. What is the funniest moment in this collection, and why?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 144 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(43)

4 Star

(31)

3 Star

(27)

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(19)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 145 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2006

    Growing Older With 'Flair'

    I read a review on this book and ordered it from my local library in Tennessee. I tried to borrow it while I was in San Diego for a month, however, there was a waiting list of 122. Does that tell you something? When I got back to TN the book was waiting for me. Real in every sense of the word - but, you need to have a dry sense of humor to find this book funny, or should I say - you need to have a humorous personality to understand it. I loved this book so much, I have ordered a copy for myself. I repeatedly went back over chapters that meant something to me - all of them, that's how closely these chapters match my own life. They read quickly as there are only a few pages in each chapter. I am going to buy all of her books, that's how much of an imaginary mentor she is to me. You've got to read this book if you are 60 or over, especially if you're having a bad day as this book will put a smile on your face for all the right reasons. I love the chapter on the Purse.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2010

    I expected more

    Let me start by saying that I LOVE Nora Ephron. I love her wit, her sense of humor, her movies and I will go so far as to say I think we have similar outlooks on life.
    I did not however, love this book.
    I really did expect more. I felt that most of the book was just "filler". I found the NY real estate chapter of her book interesting but there wasn't one chapter that grabbed me.
    I'm sorry Nora, but this was kind of forgettable.
    I will end on an upbeat note by saying I loved the cover and I hope that you come out with a new movie soon.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2008

    A reviewer

    This is beyond funny. Her choice of words is absolutely perfect. My words can not convey the absolute necessity of reading this book for any woman over that age where we start seeing our necks in the mirror and wanting a change. For you that may be 35 or 65 but when that is becomes the time for this to be a MUST read!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2006

    I Feel Good about this Book

    Great, in fact because this book made me laugh repeatedly about something I find the opposite of funny. Ephron, who's still running circles around younger writers, reveals how it feels to face life in the not-as-fast lane. Especially good are her discriptions of mishaps and misadventures and the ways she gets over and goes through some of the inevitable albeit unexpected challenges. Just wonderful reading, particulary for people who can't read without their glasses.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    HILARIOUS

    Nora Ehron is right on target with her hilarious view of women's experiences. A BIG chuckle in an overly serious world.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Getting Older

    Funny, entertaining, and right on the spot of women's pet peeves and foibles! Not great literature but the kind of female soul food needed when one gest older, the things to discuss only between females, because it only pertains to us.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    (Mostly) Humorous Take on Aging

    It's hard to stop once you begin reading any of the essays in this book. I particularly enjoyed those that followed the title's suggested theme: women getting older. Like a reviewer below, I had a more difficult time relating to the woes of someone who must pay $12,000 monthly for an Manhattan apartment as opposed to $10,000. But most of the book was spot-on and hilarious. The final chapter on facing mortality struck a contrasting and very poignant note.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2007

    Hey, I liked it

    Funny, but I was thinking the same thing about MY neck and saw the title of this book. I've read many a Roberts book but this one is the best. Funny and sad at the same time, I really enjoyed it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2006

    Excellent!

    After seeing Nora on Oprah along with some other aging women, I was slightly interested in her book. Then, when I went to the bookstore I saw it and instantly knew that it was the book I wanted to purchase..and I don't regret it! I laughed outloud to this book. I reccomend this to any woman..and I am only 16!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2007

    I'd like my time and money back!

    What a sad commentary and a complete bore!  I'd like my time and money returned.  Unless you want to be completely depressed...avoid this one!

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2007

    She's just FUNNY

    If you're like the lady who can't appreciate the humor because Nora Ephrom makes more money than she does (making her an elitist? Pu-lease! You COULD just see the it all as metaphorical examples instead of being the snob yourself.)- then don't bother because you'll be wasting your time. Otherwise, if you appreciate dry wit - the kind that sounds like Tom Hanks when he was emailing Meg Ryan in 'You've Got Mail' - you will love this book. I read chapters of it on my lunch hour and always went back to my desk chuckling. I giggled uncontrollably throughout and insisted on reading parts aloud to my husband, hairdresser, best friend... whoever would listen. I LOVE her tongue-in-cheek humor and delightful take on the commonplace. I would recommend this book to any woman over 59 (my age, ya see). Nora even makes me want to be a better writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2006

    Lighthearted and Enjoyable

    Just before falling asleep I found myself laughing out loud at her various efforts. (Her reaction to an exercise program was halarious.) I think others will relate to the events in her life as much as I did and maybe even learn something from her life experiences.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2012

    quick read

    This book is a series of modestly related essays. Although I live in a large urban area, I suspect I would have found some of it funnier if I were a New Yorker.

    Also, it's a very short book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    I Could Identify With This One

    Since I am the exact age as the author, I really enjoyed hearing her tell "my story" as well as her own (I listen to audio books). I like Nora's writing style and will definitely order future books from this writer. I especially like books that are read by the author as opposed to voice over artists. The actual author lends true emotion to each sentence as they tell it like it is. This was good for a few laughs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    Oh, stop complaining--give this book a pass

    I have the audio book and her delivery is so slow you hear the "jokes" coming a mile away. I hope she did this to stretch it out for several hours because I sure would hate to sit next to her at a dinner party. It is basically the story of a self-centered New Yorker who wants us to believe that she sits at the center of the universe but finds it Oh so silly! She has her hair done bi-weekly at a salon, had an apartment that cost her a "finder's fee" than many Americans make in a year (in 1980?), has numerous injections, waxes, anaylsis, etc. to make her feel young yet complains about the cost when her kids call information for numbers instead of using the phone book! Get real. Just a spoiled rich woman who thinks others may find this kvetching point of view funny. Maybe they do at the country club, but for the rest of us, give it a pass! Many other better humor books out there that deal with aging than this bagatelle.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2008

    Very disappointing

    I expected so much from this book, don't understand it being a bestseller. I didn't even finish it. I'm glad I bought it used and didn't pay full price for it.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2007

    Disappointing is the word, indeed

    This was truly a disappointment. After having read some of Nora Ephron's other works and having seen her on Oprah's show (she was hysterical there!)just a few days before I went out to buy the book, I kept reading with anticipation. But nothing ever happened--no laughs, no chuckles, not ever a smile. What a dull book. I agree with the other reviewer: I feel bad that I spent the money!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2007

    A self-indulgent boring offering

    This book was a total disappointment. I expected so much more from such a talented writer. It was an exceptionally boring read and came across as nothing more than a hastily assembled collection of rather depressing odds and ends that have taken place in Ms. Ephron's life. This offering is just a gratuitous cash-in on a talented career and it really fails to deliver the goods. A waste of $26.95 Cdn. (hardcover).

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2007

    A Disappointing Book

    Several of the ladies in my book club were excited when we chose this book to read. I have to say that I was disappointed. I had heard that the author was very funny, but that didn't come through in this book. I felt more like she was whining about her life. It was really hard to identify with many of the 'problems' that she has gone through.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2006

    Loved it!

    I love any book that makes me laugh----and think! Enter I FEEL BAD by Roberts, her latest addition to her growing literary canon. Trust me, if you don't feel bad about your neck now . . . you will. Roberts has taken her career to new heights with this great book! READ IT!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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