I picked up I feel Bad About my Neck by Nora Ephrata on a Sunday afternoon when I needed a little levity. Having loved her movies but never read her books, this was a happy find at a library book sale. And it did make me laugh some, and groan quite a lot.
Sometimes a book suffers in comparison to the books you read around the same time. Unfortunately, this is what happened to me here. It’s a great book to read along with other books about privileged white women living in Manhattan, like a Candace Bushnell or Melanie Benjamin. It’s a good book to make you think about aging gracefully, and would be a more lighthearted pair with the much heavier Being Mortal.
It is, however, a bad pick alongside a book like We Were Eight Years in Power. Reading about racism, slavery, and social justice just made me find Ephron’s book to be shallow and mildly offensive. Not that she meant to offend me, but I just couldn’t relate to a whole essay about loving her apartment and building on the Upper West Side. Mind you, I’ve always said that’s the part of New York City I’d want to live in. But it struck me as vacuous and wildly privileged in this moment as I also read about predatory mortgage and real estate practices.
I did however love the essay called, On Rapture, where Ephron discusses her adoration of books and reading. Being a bibliophage, I can relate to this perfectly! She writes letters to the authors she reads, most never sent.
“But mostly I write 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 am truly beside myself.”
Another of Ephron’s essays, titled Considering the Alternative, was a funny and poignant reflection on becoming that age where your friends are dying. She tells of the passing of her best friend, Judy and another friend Henry. It’s clear that no matter how much we have or don’t have in our lives, everyone feels the death of a friend as a gut punch. Ephron’s reaction is not different, but perhaps more eloquent than most of us would be.
I might hang onto this and see if it resonates more with different books alongside it. Or I might share it with another book-loving woman friend of a certain age.