I was out and about yesterday, and wandered into a mall bookstore — Borders Express. Like the regular Borders, only with more books by celebrities. Man, Barack Obama is the best thing to ever happen to any talk-show host looking for vertical integration. But what have we here? It’s Nora Ephron’s new collection of essays, “I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections,” sure to be a best-seller.
I plucked it from the shelf, expecting something slight and breezy. I was not disappointed. Many magazines are thicker, and no, I’m not kidding. A September issue of Vogue — in a recession, even — is the OED compared to this book. I sat down with it on a step stool, to see how many I might have already read in the New Yorker, her periodical publisher of choice. At least one. Then I opened it at the halfway point and started reading. One essay was a list. A clever list, to be sure, but a list. The last two essays are lists, too. The margins are wide, the type is large, and while Ephron is, as always, a funny and engaging writer, it all served to remind me that this is “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” part 2, and “I Feel Bad About My Neck” was a book I felt very smart to have gotten from the library, because I read it in about 90 minutes and saved myself $21.95. I read about half of “I Remember Nothing” in 20 minutes. It costs $22.95.
This mostly hurts because Ephron used to be big, could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the big swingin’ ones at Esquire back in the day, as smart about pop culture as anyone, and a lot funnier. She filed memorable essays on feminism, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Rod McKuen and my personal favorite, an account of the birth of the feminine hygiene spray. My BFF Deb and I were twin Nora groupies, and we both went to see her on her “Heartburn” book tour, another slender volume but with a power-to-weight ratio worthy of a Mexican boxer. Deb saw her in South Bend, and wrote me a very entertaining letter about Nora’s dismantling, from the podium, of a Notre Dame brat who phrased an accusation in the form of a question, essentially charging Ephron with the single-handed destruction of her two marriages. At the appearance I saw, she said that the bread pudding recipe had omitted six beaten eggs, and I went home and made the notation in my copy, next to the passage where it’s woven into the narrative. Of course I could find it in a minute because I’d already read the book about three times and knew right where it was.
It’s not that these essays lack weight. It’s that they lack editing. The piece about egg-white omelettes, a food rant lite, could have gone, but then the book would have been 155 pages instead of 160. So could those lists (152 pages and falling…). And so on. But I guess maybe that’s the point, as the theme of this book, and the last, is aging and how it diminishes you. I really don’t think Ephron’s writing is so diminished, it’s that so much less is expected of her. And her publisher seems to expect very little of us, certainly. I guess we’ll pay $22.95 for anything.
Ephron is older than me, but I’m feeling older these days, too. Friday night I took Kate and a bunch of her friends to a concert — five bands, co-headlined by Anarbor and VersaEmerge, but Anarbor is all they were interested in. My job at these things is to drive, pay for things, hold coats, say as little as possible and stand in the background, a combination human ATM/factotum. I dressed accordingly — jeans, black sweater, black jacket and because I knew we’d be standing in line in the outside chill followed by the usual overheated club, one of my nice silk scarves around my neck. You know, for that little pop of color.
One of the girls lacked a ticket. I left them in line and walked inside to buy one. This is at the Majestic Theater complex on Woodward in Detroit, cornerstone of the Detroit music scene. Three venues, two restaurants and a bowling alley. White Stripes, Von Bondies, Electric Six, Was (Not Was) — you get the idea. A security guard directed me to the bowling alley, where I found a thirtysomething hipster spraying disinfectant into bowling shoes.
“Hi, I need one ticket for the show upstairs tonight,” I said.
He looked me over for 1.5 seconds and said, “The doors will be opening soon, ma’am, and your son or daughter can get a ticket at the top of the stairs then.”
I looked him over for 1.5 seconds and said, “How do you know I’m buying for my son or daughter? How do you know it’s not for me?”
He said, “Your ascot?”
I felt bad about my neck. But not for long. Because soon we were upstairs, ticketed, the girls bolting for the stage so as to stand within sweat-spraying distance and me? I went to the bar. There were several other people of roughly my age there. All parents. No ascots, but some remarkable stories — one had driven his daughter all the way from Buffalo, another from Youngstown. To see VersaEmerge, with a female lead singer who reminded me of Natalie Merchant, if Natalie Merchant sang like a cat being strangled. The Buffalo father told me about how much he loves traveling with his daughter and how cool she is and how many shows they see together. When he started buying Crown Royal shots for the bartenders, I excused myself and wandered around taking low-light pictures.
Mostly bad ones, which usually happens when I try to duplicate the Tri-X photography of my early colleagues:
Alan and I disagreed on whether the Magic Stick is a pool hall. I insisted it was, he said it wasn’t. I win, although during shows, the pool tables become the roadies’ area:
And the neon backs me up.
So, let’s skip to the bloggage:
As Thanksgiving drew nearer, Mr. and Mrs. Albom were discouraged by how many of their lovely invitations to spend the holiday in their gracious Bloomfield Hills home were returned with regrets. It was such a small request — spend five days in the bosom of one of America’s most beloved writers, providing him with column fodder, uncompensated by anything more than turkey. What is wrong with people these days, anyway?
It could be worse. You could be reminiscin’ with Bob Greene.
The crime that dare not speak its name: Term papers for hire — the perp’s side of the story. Seriously, worth a read.
Finally, we had some remarkable weather here this weekend — dense, pea-soup fog that lingered most of the day Friday and returned Saturday. Here’s the view of the water from the median strip on Lake Shore.
Best part? The foghorns.
Have a great Monday.