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
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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.

August 11, 2007

More Essays for People Who Like ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’

Filed under: Essays and Reviews — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:44 pm
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Just found out that Nora Ephron’s publisher has come out with a new paperback edition of her essay collection Wallflower at the Orgy (Bantam, $12, paperback), which I didn’t mention in my post earlier this week, “Essays for People Who Like I Feel Bad About My Neck”

So Wallflower at the Orgy might be easier to find than the Modern Library Edition of her Crazy Salad, which I did mention. The reprint also has an article on the late-20th-century gods of food, including Craig Claiborne, that relates directly to an essay in I Feel Bad About My Neck. But Wallflower at the Orgy deals heavily with media and publishing celebrities whose stars have dimmed, such as Arthur Frommer, Mike Nichols and Helen Gurley Brown. So you might still prefer the essays in Crazy Salad, which show their age less clearly. The writing in both books easily beats almost anything you’ll find today in a typical issue of People or Vanity Fair.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 9, 2007

Essays for People Who Like Nora Ephron’s ‘I Feed Bad About My Neck’

Nora Ephron has reintroduced a lot of people to the pleasure of personal essays with I Feel Bad About My Neck, still a bestseller a year after its publication. What can you read next if you liked that book? A few suggestions:

Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (Modern Library, $12.95, paperback), by Nora Ephron.
Crazy Salad is, some ways, better than I Feel Bad About My Neck. Many of its essays appeared in a column on women that Ephron wrote for Esquire, and the security of that perch allowed her to take on bigger subjects and dig deeper into them than she has been able to do more recently. The most memorable essays in Crazy Salad include “A Few Words About Breasts” (about having small breasts) and “Baking Off” (about the Pillsbury Bake-Off).

My Misspent Youth: Essays (Open City, $14, paperback), by Meghan Daum.
Born in 1970, Daum is a generation younger than Ephron, and some of her subjects reflect it: Internet dating, her loathing for wall-to-wall carpeting, and her pile of student-loan and credit-card debt. But like Ephron, she has a gift for blending reporting, self-analysis and satire. Some critics call Daum a snob for insisting on, for example, the superiority of hardwood floors to carpeted. It would more accurate to say that, like Ephron, she has perfected a comic shtick that at times involves turning her tastes into dogmas or neuroses in print.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14, paperback), by Joan Didion.
This is Didion’s best collection and perhaps her finest book of any kind. Most of its essays were written more than four decades ago, when they became benchmarks for what has become known as the New Journalism. But some anticipate recent fads such as “journaling” (“On Keeping a Notebook”) and blaming misbehavior on “low self-esteem” (“On Self-Respect”), though words like “journaling” and “low self-esteem” would no doubt make Didion gag.

To read a review of I Feel Bad About My Neck, click on this link To find the reading group guide to I Feel Bad About My Neck, click on this link

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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