One-Minute Book Reviews

April 22, 2008

Have Publishers’ Reading Group Guides Gone Around the Bend? Bizarre Discussion Questions for Nora Ephron’s ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’

Filed under: Essays and Reviews,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:52 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Even for the etherized realm of publishers’ reading group guides, the list of discussion questions for the new paperback edition of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck (Vintage, 160 pp., $12.95) is bizarre. Here is the first question:

“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?”

Question: What does this have to do with the book? If you’re going to take the focus of a discussion off the book and drag it over to readers’ views on etiquette, shouldn’t you wait until people have at least discussed the book?

Then there is this stumper: “What would this book be like if written by a man?” Answer: It wouldn’t be because the whole point of the book is that it’s about female experience. It’s like saying: What would Sherman Alexie’s books be like if they hadn’t been written by an Indian? They wouldn’t be.

You could understand – sort of – why a publisher might take this approach for pop fiction, the literary equivalent of a bag of Styrofoam peanuts, which doesn’t give you much to discuss. But for Ephron, who has excelled in fiction, nonfiction and screenwriting?

I can’t bring myself to link to this wacko guide (which appears the Vintage site), so I also won’t link to the One-Minute Book Reviews alternate guide (which you can find by using the Search box). You’ll have to trust me when I say that the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide to Ephron’s essay collection does begin with the book.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. I know study guides are BIG BUSINESS even though I think people ought to be smart enough to come up with their own questions and talking points. In this case, I think almost anyone could do better than the publisher who apparently should have asked, “Could Emily Post have written such a book as this in her day and time?”

    I need a drink and it’s still early.


    Comment by knightofswords — April 22, 2008 @ 10:13 am | Reply

  2. Publishers actually provide readers’ guides for free. They post them on their sites or put them in the back of paperback editions (though they’re not “free” if that adds to the cost). It’s probably a good they they do, because you wonder who would pay for some of them.

    If you’re feeling stressed, some of the lines in “Primary Colors” (which I’m writing about tomorrow) may make you smile, or smile again.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — April 22, 2008 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  3. […] Posted by Amelia under blogging, literary rumination | Tags: books, nonfiction, stupidity |   Janice Harayda pointed out the retardedness of discussion group questions in the back of a certain book. I cannot […]

    Pingback by Don’t Ask Stupid Questions « — April 22, 2008 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

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