You don't have to be old to appreciate this collection of memories, aphorisms and stern good advice from America's favourite naughty aunt, the 69-year-old writer Nora Ephron.
In fact, if fearing new technology, having Google moments (it's like a Senior Moment, but you just Google it), and being really annoyed by the "Would you like another bottle of Pellegrino?" question in restaurants make one a senior citizen, then pass me the Lactaid and wake me up at teatime. Many of Ephron's observations will be snigger-out-loud familiar to men and women readers of more tender years; those that aren't already are worth close attention, because they probably will be, all too soon.
As the prolific author of bestselling books such as this one's predecessor, I Feel Bad About My Neck, the writer of films including Sleepless in Seattle and Heartburn, and the daughter of Hollywood semi-royalty, Ephron has had an action-packed life and known plenty of names to drop – if only she could remember them. Two brief chapters about tellers of tall tales make one wonder whether Ephron's own anecdotes are entirely true. But it doesn't matter; they contain truths of a much more important kind.
Reading this book is a little like being sat down by an older, wiser friend, who hands you a large gin and tonic and says: "Now listen carefully, because I haven't got much time." There are chapters called "Flops" (about her movies), "The Six Stages of Email" (v funny, lol) and "My Life as a Meat Loaf", about the time when Graydon Carter set up a restaurant and named the dish after her. "I'd hoped for a dance step, or a pair of pants," she reflects. "But I was older now, and I was willing to settle for a meat loaf." There are several short chapters each beginning "I Just Want To Say ...", about the egg-white omelette, Teflon, chicken soup, and "No, I do not want another bottle of Pellegrino". These are not meant to be confused with "something actually important, like the war in Afghanistan", but they also really must be stopped.
Chapters about her mother's alcoholism, sexism in her early journalism career, and her nearly inheriting a huge sum from her late uncle (a sum that would have prevented her finishing her career-defining screenplay for When Harry Met Sally) could have made memoirs in themselves, but like she says, Ephron is in a hurry.
She concludes with two lists: "What I Won't Miss" (dry skin; bad dinners; washing my hair; bras; funerals ...) and "What I Will Miss" (her kids; spring; fall; waffles; the concept of waffles ...).
"The realization that I may have only a few good years remaining has hit me with real force ..." concludes this lively, mischievous guide to life. "I try to say to myself, 'If this is one of the last days of my life, am I doing exactly what I want to be doing?' I aim low. My idea of a perfect day is a frozen custard at Shake Shack and a walk in the park. (Followed by a Lactaid [which prevents the bloating caused by digesting dairy, apparently].)"
Good advice indeed.