GOOD READS

Darryl Ponicsan strikes (again)

Perhaps we can blame (or praise) the Sonoma Valley Library for local author and screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan’s latest book.

Ponicsan confesses that he got the idea to write it after spotting a used copy of Nora Ephron’s similarly-titled tome at a library used-books sale. Since Ponicsan divides his time between homes in Sonoma and Palm Springs, it’s likely he was in one place or the other when he made the fateful purchase of Ephron’s 2006 book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.

Ponicsan says he initially picked the book up, scanned the title then tossed it back in the bin, uninterested. But. “I was inextricably drawn back to it. I was curious about someone who feels bad about her neck … I had nothing going on that afternoon except a bottle of Rams Gate chardonnay chilling in an ice bucket. I paid my dollar and went home to read the book.” The Rams Gate chardonnay suggests he was, in fact, at the Sonoma Valley Library.

Ephron’s neck chapter quickly reveals the book’s flavor.

“You can put makeup on your face and concealer under your eyes and dye on your hair, you can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there’s not a damn thing you can do about a neck.”

After reading the book, Ponicsan was inspired to explore the parallels “between women’s necks and the dicks of dudes.” He might have kept working on it, with the intention of writing a male counterpoint to Ephron’s female laments, but then she unexpectedly died from complications of leukemia, an illness she had kept largely secret and that was diagnosed the year she wrote about her neck.

At that point, “writes Ponicsan, “the fun went out of it. The moment of respectful silence stretched into several years …”

But a decade passed, Ponicsan was sorting through piles of notes, came across the list of possible chapters he thought he might write, so he wrote them.

The result is a deliberate imitation —or perhaps a thoughtful celebration—in form and content of Ephron’s neck book. The cover is egg yolk yellow, like the first edition of Nora’s book; the chapters (Cereal Topography; I Feel Bad About My Murse; The Story of Half My Life in 223 Words) mimic some of Ephron’s (Serial Monogamy; I Hate My Purse; The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less), and like Ephron, Ponicsan actually shares a lot of deeply personal and, frequently, both interesting and entertaining insights from a life passionately lived.

Unlike his novels, this book is not a page turner, but it’s perfect for the toilet or the night stand. A short chapter here, a short chapter there (there are 41 of them), and you’ve had a nice ride.   

—David Bolling


I Feel Bad About My Dick: Lamentations of Masculine Vanity and Lists of Startling Pertinence. 148 pages. $16.95. Pleasure Boat Studio.