three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
By: 
Nora Ephron
user_rating: 
0

And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

A-I Feel Bad About My Neck"Everything is copy," writes Nora Ephron, and so it would seem from this collection of essays about her life. The book opens with the title essay about aging (not gracefully); it then proceeds to bodily upkeep (some tips: Botox, bath oil, hair dyeing, waxing, and threading—but there’s really nothing to be done about the neck wattle), parenting, marriage, divorce, screenwriting, and menopause. We learn of Ephron’s true feelings about the empty nest and her various love affairs—with an apartment, some cookbooks, and Bill Clinton (from afar). Ephron ends with "Considering the Alternative," about death and about friendship—the possible antidote to life’s ups and downs. "But the honest truth," she confesses, "is that it’s sad to be over 60."
Knopf. 139 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 0307264556

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"In the manner of all natural-born embroiderers, Ephron augments tales she has told before and also divulges new insights, grievances, and gossip. … 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

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"What we have in these essays is Ephron in her 60s, a woman whose friends are starting to die, who can’t—no matter how hard she fights or how clever she is—control everything. Hair color, yes; neck, no." Susan Salter Reynolds

Newsday 3.5 of 5 Stars
"She is as funny as ever, though less political—the women’s movement is barely a quiver on these pages. … What is so refreshing about Ephron is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously." Heller McAlpin

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"Her notes are not notes from the underground, exactly, but they are more than copy. They are not Montaigne, but here and there they have a touch of searching for a graver universal in a homely particular." Richard Eder

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"As far as money is concerned, she’s earned it, no question about that—but the specifics of what she’s writing about, here and in other essays in the collection, are much less than universal. … ‘Goodbye’ may be her final word in this uneven book, but with any luck, it’ll turn out that she doesn’t mean it." Bunny Crumpacker

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"All of it is easy reading, and sometimes too easy. … Too often here, she skims the surface on topics that deserve the full benefit of her intelligence." Karen Sandstrom

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 of 5 Stars
"To be sure, her writing will resonate with Baby Boomer women about wrinkles and breast cancer and an increasing inability to read 12-point type. … This is a very thin excuse for a book, by an author who has done and can do much better." Mackenzie Carpenter

Critical Summary

Nora Ephron, best known for her screenplays When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Silkwood and best sellers Heartburn and Crazy Salad, has written a sort of Ephron retrospective. Though humorously self-deprecating and poignant, critics agree that the essays, some published previously, are uneven. Readers may love "I Hate My Purse"—unless they find it outdated. Other essays came off as vain, stale, or elitist in their carefree attitude toward luxury items. Only "Considering the Alternative" received uniform praise for its generous introspection. Despite the collection’s lightweight feel, Ephron still writes "like someone who has something useful and important to tell her readers" (Los Angeles Times). "When your children are teenagers," for example, "it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you."