Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron








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Readers with a healthy sense of humor will laugh a lot while reading Nora Ephron’s latest book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. Her essays have a particular appeal for women, but many men will also appreciate her humor. Here’s an excerpt, all of the essay titled, “Blind As a Bat,” pp. 50-53:


I can’t read a word on the map. I know we’re on Route 110 heading east, because we just drove past a large sign that said so. Now we seem to be in Fort Salonga. I’m sure Fort Salonga is on the map, but I can’t find my reading glasses so I can’t read the map. One of the nicest things about being about to read a map, which I used to be able to do without reading glasses, is that you’re never really lost if you can find yourself on a map. But those days are over; we’re lost. We hate being lost. I hate being lost, he hates being lost, and our marriage hates being lost. On the other hand, I have to admit, we’re get­ting used to it. And because it’s my fault (and not my husband’s) that I can’t find my reading glasses, although it’s his fault (and not mine) that there’s no magnifying glass in the glove compartment, I say mellow things like “Well, at least we’re headed in the right direction.” My husband says mellow things too, like “Well, we’ve never come this way before, so it might be interesting.” And he’s right. It might be interesting. Except that it’s very dark outside, and the only thing I can see clearly is a sign that says we’re on Route 110 heading east through Fort Salonga. Wherever that is.

I can’t read a word in the telephone book. When I was a young newspaper reporter, I always began by looking in the telephone book. You’d be amazed at how many people were right there, listed, waiting to be found. Years later, I tried to convey this to my children, but they ignored me. It drove me crazy. My children thought that calling Directory Assistance was free, on top of which they always pressed “1” to be connected, for an additional charge of thirty-five cents. This drove me even crazier. Now that I can’t read the fine print in the telephone book, I’m forced to call Directory Assistance. I speak to a recording. I miss my relationship with the telephone book. I miss what it stood for. Self-sufficiency. Democracy. The belief that you could find what you were looking for in a place that everyone in the world had access to. Just thinking about the telephone book makes me misty about a world where everyone—or nearly everyone—was in the book, and what’s more, I could find them without the assistance of a disembodied recording that doesn’t understand a word I’m saying.

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 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 12/08/07” 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?


Each successive paragraph brings another level of humor, long after a reader would think the topic is exhausted. Ephron’s essays in I Feel Bad About My Neck will be enjoyed most by those readers who are old enough to appreciate the experiences she describes, say anyone older than 45.  


Steve Hopkins, September 25, 2006



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the October 2006 issue of Executive Times


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