“I am greatly relieved that the universe is finally explainable. I was beginning to think it was me.”–Woody Allen
Here, in his first collection since his three hilarious classics Getting Even, Without Feathers, and Side Effects, Woody Allen has managed to write a book that not only answers the most profound questions of human existence but is the perfect size to place under any short table leg to prevent wobbling.
“I awoke Friday, and because the universe is expanding it took me longer than usual to find my robe,” he explains in a piece on physics called “Strung Out.” In other flights of inspirational sanity we are introduced to a cast of characters only Allen could imagine: Jasper Nutmeat, Flanders Mealworm, and the independent film mogul E. Coli Biggs, just to name a few. Whether he is writing about art, sex, food, or crime (“Pugh has been a policeman as far back as he can remember. His father was a notorious bank robber, and the only way Pugh could get to spend time with him was to apprehend him”) he is explosively funny.
In “This Nib for Hire,” a Hollywood bigwig comes across an author’s book in a little country store and describes it in a way that aptly captures this magnificent volume: “Actually,” the producer says, “I’d never seen a book remaindered in the kindling section before.”
This collection of 18 sketches, 10 of which appeared in the New Yorker, is Allen's first in 25 years. The animating comedy is part S.J. Perelman and part borscht belt: Allen piles the ludicrous on top of the ridiculous and tops it with an acidic lemon squeeze, and then just keeps the jokes coming. So when the babysitter in "Nanny Dearest" describes her boss-"Bidnick gorges himself on Viagra, but the dosage makes him hallucinate and causes him to imagine he is Pliny the Elder"- we laugh; when, in a piece making fun of the New York Times science page, "Strung Out," Allen notes that "to a man standing on the shore, time passes quicker than to a man on a boat - especially if the man on the boat is with his wife"-we groan. Sometimes the simplest pieces work best: man goes to New Age retreat and learns to levitate, but not to get back down. While this collection doesn't quite measure up to Allen's Without Feathers (1975), there are pieces here - for instance, the report on Mickey Mouse's testimony at the Michael Eisner/Michael Ovitz trial - that will put a rictus on your kisser.
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As always, a humorous classic ))
As much as I love Mr. Allen's movies, and as much respect as I have for him as an artist, I just have to say... This book is terrible. Obtuse, obscure, completely self-indulgent; it took me forever to get through it, like a chore I kept putting off though I knew it needed doing. And once I had finished, I felt diminished and a
Little bit sad that this is where his prose has gone. I really dislike writing negative reviews but I just feel the need to warn... Buyer beware.