I Feel Bad about My Neck
The charm of this book lies in the fact that the audiobook was read by Nora Ephron. I listened to the whole thing on a walk. This is a short collection of essays about aging in various kinds of ways, whether that means the effects on aging on your body or the simply just the passing of time. So those two themes, along with a few others, sort of permeate this whole collection. The essays include the frustration of carrying a purse, the frustrations of how your neck always shows your age even if you get other (minor) work done around the edges. The passage of time shows in up in a great essay about looking for a new apartment in New York city, rent control, and the different things associated with that and in another essay about a kind of food that seemingly disappeared from all of New York overnight, the cabbage strudel. These two themes coalesce in an essay about death and dying and how Nora Ephron’s best friend died of cancer. What I really appreciate about these essays is that they’re not bitter per se, but honest. She rejects the notion that you have to be positive or dishonest about death and dying and aging, but that you can just be. Feel sad when you want to, feel glad when you want to.
The best essay for me, and maybe one I will share with students is about the rapture one can feel reading a book. It’s a nice essay about taking the pressure off when you don’t feel completely captured by a book (I read a lot so this is nice to hear) and really appreciating it when you do feel it.
A Man Called Ove
Again another nice book about stubbornness, aging, death, and dying. This is a novel that apparently everybody has read a loved. I liked it. It’s a charming story about a fastidious older man whose wife has died and so he as well kill himself. The world is what it is and rules should be followed and since he feels he has lost his sense of usefulness and the only person who loved and understood him has died, he should too. Instead, he is thwarted by cheap rope, an explosively wild family nextdoor and his anger that he can’t seem to leave the world behind because he doesn’t trust the people left to run it the right ways.
Like I said, I liked this book. I think the heartwarming parts of funny and earnest. But I also think this book tries so hard and while it’s often successful, it relies so heavily on tropes and borrowed conceits that it fails to be great by any stretch. I will likely leave it squarely behind me as I move on. And as Nora Ephron suggests, that’s ok. I am interested by the movie, which I think is on Amazon, so I got that.
I will honest too that for all the Scandinavian novels I have read, the particularity about the cars (especially since I think Saabs are kind of not great cars) doesn’t ring a bell to me. I don’t have strong opinions so it’s hard me to understand so clearly why he does, beyond his connection with his father.