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Dave Wood's Book Report, Sept. 27, 2006

Ever since I watched the movie "Heartburn," I've wanted to know more about its heroine, based on Nora Ephron. In "Heartburn" Ephron is played by Meryl Streep and her husband Bernstein, is played by Jack Nicholson. They argue a lot, they eat a lot and finally they get divorced.

In real life both have gone their varied ways, Ephron, now married to writer Nicholas Pileggi is a screen writer and a funny one. Her credits include "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle."

I just learned more about her in her new book of hilarious essays "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" (Knopf, $19.95).

Essentially it's a book about growing old, about maintaining or not maintaining her body. Here's a sample:

"I'm sorry to report that I have a mustache. The truth is, I probably always had a mustache, but for years it was sort of dormant, or incipient, or threatening, in the way a cloudy sky threatens to rain. On a few occasions in my younger years it turned dark and stormy, and when it did, I dealt with it by going to the drugstore and buying a much too large jar of something called Jolen cr?me bleach. Jolen Cr?me turns the mustache on your upper lip to the exact color of Richard Gephardt's hair, which is better than its looking like Frida Kahlo's mustache, but it's still slightly hairier than you mean it to be."

"But then, along came menopause. And with I, my mustache changed. It was no longer dormant, incipient, and threatening; it was no just plain there. ....."

You get the picture. She writes about what's happening to her neck, about which there's little that she can do outside a facelift, which she rejects (good for you, Nora!).

Later in the book, she wanders from body maintenance and tells the very funny and perceptive -- story of how she "fell out of love" with a guy named Bill. Here's a sample:

"I broke up with Bill a long time ago. It's always hard to remember love, years pass and you say to yourself, Was I really in love, or was I just kidding myself? I'm pretty sure it was the real deal. I loved the guy.

"As for Bill, I have to be honest. He did not love me. In fact, I never even crossed his mind. Not once. But in the beginning that didn't stop me. I loved him. I believed in him, and I didn't even think he was a liar. Of course, I know he'd lied about this thing with Gennifer [Flowers]".

Anyway I fell out of love with Bill early in the game -- over gays in the military. I had faith in him. I'd been positive he'd never back down. How could he? But then he did, he backed down just like that. He turned out to be just like the others. So that was it. Goodbye, big guy. I'm out of here. Don't even think about calling.

"By the time Bill got involved with Monica [Lewinsky], you'd have thought I'd have shrugged and said I told you so, you can't trust the guy as far as you can spit".

On the regional front "The Cellini Masterpiece," by Raymond John (North Star Press of St. Cloud , $14.95 paper) is just out and Minneapolis author John is getting rave reviews about his mystery set on the island of Malta.

Dave Wood is a past vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. E-mail him at