Monday, August 13, 2007

Aging gracelessly

kw: book reviews, autobiographies, aging

Google "nora ephron" and you'll get nearly 700,000 hits, and more than 10,000 image hits. Nora Ephron has lived her life in public, so there's nothing I need to say. I picked up the book because I recognized her name from hearing a few of her audio essays on NPR.

I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman ought perhaps to have a minor subtitle change: ...Being an Aging Woman. Perhaps. Or ...Being a Woman of a Certain Age. This collection of essays that reveal her inner life, the one not lived in public—or the one that she's doing her best to hide from public view—are by turns witty and devastatingly frank.

Move Erma Bombeck from Dayton, Ohio to Manhattan (and resurrect her; she passed away in 1996...and she still has 1.3 million Google hits), add a few hard edges and about 220 volts of vanity, and you have Ms Ephron.

The author writes primarily of the toll gravity and time exact, particularly about her efforts to minimize them, even as she brutally exposes what she sees in the mirror...when she can bring herself to look. As she writes, "Denial can be a way of life."

But she also writes about habits, habits of thought and habits of action. She writes about divorce as though one were expected to pull one off every ten years or so. She writes about disorganization and the kind of purse required to at least contain (some of) it. Eventually, it is all seen as a diatribe over failed dreams.

I've had dreams die. Several times. I recommend Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst. It is more for women than for men, yet it helped me a lot (the men in my family tend to think like women least compared to the average "man"). Why would I say this? I came away from reading Neck, at one sitting, with this impression: It is the modern equivalent of Ecclesiastes—"Vanity of vanity, all is vanity."

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