Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Things that Drive You Crazy.



W.E. Dubois reading.

This is not about purses or necks.

I was reading Nora Ephron's book I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, (which I do, too, as well as most of the stuff that sits under it). I picked it up at a garage sale for $2.

In it, she tells the reader, (after criticizing a friend out for buying a ridiculously expensive purse), that the only handbag she herself carries is a $26 dollar plastic bag in blue and yellow. Sometime easily replaced, practical, non-destructible.

Now tell me what person making less than a bazillion dollars a year, and spending a million dollars on shoes and clothes, would feel as self-righteous and immune to criticism as Ephron in revealing this. Is this supposed to make the "little people" like her?

Only a rich woman can get away with carrying such a thing. The average Joanne, the plumber, wearing $30 jeans from the Gap, white running shoes, a sweatshirt and carrying an extra 25 pounds, cannot carry such a purse. I've tried it (using the Bouchercon tote bag) and it doesn't look good with a skirt and sweater, believe me. People did not congratulate me on my thriftiness even once.

A bag like Nora's only looks good with Dior. Or with those hard-to- spell shoes Carrie Bradshaw always wore.

I can't finish the Ephron book because I've lost all respect for her as an essayist and person. My husband advises me to give her a chance--that's she just being funny. That if Meg Ryan made this statement in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, I might have thought it cute. If Streep said it in JULIA AND JULIE, I would have been charmed. I doubt it.

Do statements like Ephron's drive you crazy? When reading a non-fiction book, does the personality of the writer sometimes get in your way? This happens to me a lot. Just like certain people would do better to stay off of talks shows, others should refrain from writing books about themselves. Be mysterious, be enigmatic, just don't open up.

I'm doing it now, aren't I? I'm one of those people who should keep her mouth closed.

34 comments:

Deb said...

Her early books were very good--if you can find "Crazy Salad" or "Wallflower at the Orgy" at a UBS, by all means, pick it up. Something shifted after "Heartburn," and she was never that funny again. Her comment about the $26 purse is one of those tone-deaf statements that make you want to grind pebbles with your back teeth. I'd love to be able to spend more than $26 on a purse, but when there are other financial obligations, spending much beyond $26 for a purse is an extravagance I can't afford.

Dana King said...

Some celebrities--and Ephron qualifies--forget they became celebrities not because of their intrinsic celebrity-ness, but because they did something singularly well. (Write, sing, act, whatever.) I'm happy to learn more about whatever made her a celebrity, but I don't really care about much else about her.

I'm afraid I'm in the minority here. How else to explian the supermarket tabloids and profusion of Entertainment Tonight-type TV shows?

George said...

Nora Ephron is a quirky person. She has a gift for romantic comedy. But the $26 purse is very close to Suze Orman's cheap jewelry. Both women are incredibly wealthy and could afford to buy expensive purses and jewelry, but choose not to. I can't explain it. Like you, Patti, I think it's best to cultivate an air of mystery rather than providing too much information that is bound to annoy people

pattinase (abbott) said...

Tone-deaf is a perfect description. I think a writer risks exposing his/her inner and more annoying self with writing memoirs or this sort of thing. I can't say I came away from Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking entirely enamored with her either.

Todd Mason said...

Well, both Ephron and Didion are people of strong opinions, and they had more to complain about that tended to resonate with more people before they Made It...they haven't changed all that much, aside from the insulation from the petty indignities that wealth brings (which, of course, hasn't cushioned Didion from the Big Indignities, but she's hardly alone in that, either).

It depends, Patti. As a writer, you are providing your take on the world even if you stick to fiction, and I find your takes on the world worth reading and grappling with, even when I'm startled by what you seem to have taken on faith. Ephron was both tone-deaf and right (at very least to be asking), for example, when she was asking, at the beginning of her career, what exactly did male transvestites think they were doing by their apparent imposture--did they really think they were being women, or mocking them? Why or why not?. She hasn't changed that much.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I still see both sides of a horse as equally open to mounting. You may or may not get that reference, Todd.

Rick Robinson said...

Nope, that doesn't drive me crazy. But then why would it: I'm a man, I don't carry a purse, a wallet and/or backpack being my choice. I wonder how you'd have reacted if she said she abandoned purses and uses a cheap backpack instead? Probably with incredulity.

Only women judge people by the purse they carry. That said, knowing the demographics of her readership leans far to the female, I'm sure she was trying to strike a chord (successfully, it seems ) while being funny (not so much so).

My wife likes Very Nice urses, but one of our cats (nicknamed Sir Chewsalot) will chew up most anything leather, purses being a favorite, so she goes without.

Todd Mason said...

I never expected such off-color talk in your blog, Patti.

But please do explicate as to what you mean here.

Richard Robinson said...

...and I get your reference to Todd, it's about the way the stirrups hang down from the saddle, or wherever they hang from, right? Don't right-handed people get on the horse from it's left side and left-handed people fro it's right side? That was what you meant, I'm sure.

Richard Robinson said...

Say, Todd, how come I never see you over at MY blog?

(shameless plug - sorry Patti)

Todd Mason said...

I was wondering what the further implications of that rigging, which was what I suspected the specific reference might be toward, in this context...and, Richard, I have only so much impudence to spread. I will see what tone-deaf comment I can make on yours soon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was a comment on Ed's blog regarding my sorry knowledge of westerns and the lore that accompanies them. I said until recently I didn't know you were only supposed to mount a horse from his left side. Or is right? Depends on which way the horse is facing as opposed to you. Well, anyway, my one experience on a horse ended when he tossed me, gently I might add, into the grass. I was six and his name was Bootsie.

K. A. Laity said...

Only women judge people by the purse they carry.

Only some women judge people by the purse they carry. I couldn't care less. If you want to see judgmental stand behind a pack of males watching women walk by. I wish my freshman students could come up with as many trivial details to evaluate in a text (and I didn't know that so many men knew the term "cankle" either).

Things that drive me crazy... I'll let you know when I think of another.

Lisa said...

I'm afraid I am mightily influenced by my perception of the essayist and in this case, I agree her statement is pretty tone-deaf. In particular, when it comes to shoes and handbags there are quite a few of us who took Hannibal Lector's comments to heart and will buy the outfits we can afford but take care never to show up at an important meeting in cheap shoes or with a cheap handbag. I'm not saying I'm proud of that statement, it's just a reality. I seriously doubt Ephron has ever appeared at a movie event in less than $5K worth of designer apparel. On Joan Didion -- I have the same weird discomfort. I admire her as a writer, but she impresses me as someone I wouldn't like as a person. It's also spilled over to movies. When the filmmaker has become bigger than the films -- like Tarantino -- I start watching a film with the expectation that I won't like it. In the case of Inglourious Basterds, my prophesy was fulfilled; however, that was just as much my disdain for the filmmaker's annoying personality as it was my initial disgust at the idea of Jews as Nazis. Whoa, guess I'm a little crabby today :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

And the shoes.I never look at a person's feet. Those $500 shoes are wasted on me. Maybe if they were closer to my eyes, I might notice. But short people are usually looking up not down.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My problem with Didion's book was that she was so busy mourning her husband (and rightly so), her daughter seems to have died without notice. It just kept hitting me in the face. Yes, but what about your kid in the hospital.
Same problem with Michael Chabon's wife. Okay, you love him the most. But you don't have to announce it from rooftops. Just tell him--nobody else needs this much information. Dyadic couples, I guess.

Lisa said...

I was thinking the same when I read Didion's memoir, but I suppose to be fair, her daughter died after she'd finished the book and she really had no way of knowing it was coming.

On the other -- whoa -- ssh -- I follow her on Twitter and she is...a very unusual person. Way TMI.

Todd Mason said...

I'll suggest that Ayelet Waldman's "confessions" did have at least the good effect of suggesting that one's life partner perhaps Should be one's largest concern after one's self (when one and one's partner have a mutually supportive, good, worthwhile relation). I've certainly come across too much that seems to insist otherwise.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My problem is not that she feels that way, but that as a semi-public figure she had now placed the onus of her revelation on children who were quite young when she made the announcement. And if a pecking order of her preferences in love is on the table, the children must wonder which of them are loved least. Is this making sense? Why did she feel such a revelation must be made. Pillow talk has its uses.

Deb said...

Doesn't it put Chabon in a bad spot too? Almost as if he has to now say he loves his wife more than he loves his children.

That whole business seemed awfully immature to me. When you have children, you love them in a different way than you love your partner; you relate to them in a different way. My husband and I are happily married (20 years and counting), but each of us knows (and expects) that if either of us had to choose between saving the kids and saving each other, saving the kids would be a no-brainer. Of course, that's a rare situation and we hope and pray it never comes to that.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Patti, it's a touchy subject, certainly, and not the best thing to bring up for family harmony (you know, I don't think it's ever preyed too heavily on me whether my parents liked each other or my brother better than they liked me)...but the value of it does come up in Deb's response. If you and your husband, Deb, have a thorough understanding that such a Hobson's choice is a no-brainer, that's good, I guess. I'm not sure that that's going to be the default for everyone, and perhaps those who don't find it a no-brainer shouldn't feel bad about that.

But, yeah, it could be discomfitting for the kids. I hope it isn't.

Laurie Powers said...

I found myself equally unimpressed by Nora Ephron's book...thought it was extremely self-serving and full of tripe. I was trying to find the book to give you an example other than the purse example, but it looks like I threw the book away. Oh well...
by the way, Patti, I'd like to join in on the Friday Forgotten Movies...how can I do that? My blog is www.lauriepowerswildwest.blogspot.com

Chuck said...

With a mother, a sister, a wife, three daughters and an ex-wife, I have certainly been exposed to purses for a very long time. On occasion, I have even been asked to hold one. Generally I find them to be very heavy and outrageously expensive and I absolutely hate it when a woman asks me to get something out of one. The black hole of Calcutta.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is not a man alive who wants to put his hand in a woman's purse. I think he secretly feels she is carrying something so scary, so repulsive, he will never be able to...enjoy women again.
The only way to get over this fear is for men to carry purses too.

Lisa said...

I'm pretty sure most men believe our purses are crammed full of tampons. *Shrug* I say let them think that. Keeps them from rummaging around :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too. That's what I meant.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Or the vagina dentata problem. That's what my husband claims at least.

Todd Mason said...

Sensible men are all too aware of what packs their wallets. We suspect that most non-OCD-persons' purses (including man-purses0 resemble those writ large, often with a lot of makeup that might well get spilled/exposed if rummaged through too energetically (perhaps also in man-purses, perhaps metrosexual beauty aids in this case). I must admit, clean sanitary products are not the most terrifying things in the world...I'd rather pity any man living with a woman, particularly, who would find them remotely so.

WV: entocas

Barrie said...

I have definitely seen actors who should not go on talk shows!

the walking man said...

"I'm one of those people who should keep her mouth closed."

No constructive purpose in that.

Jenn Jilks said...

There are some who speak, like my ex-sister-in-law, and if she disliked a movie, I knew I would like it!

Charles Gramlich said...

A statement like that would probably insure that I never went any further in that book. Definitely when the personality comes through and is irritating I don't go on.

kitty said...

Wow. I read I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, and although I can't recall specifics, I do remember liking it a lot. Guess I'll have to look at it again to see what y'all are upset about.

...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Kitty-I never got past the first chapter. I probably should give it more of a chance.