Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Woody Allen the Silly Existentialist

Forget what you think you know about Woody Allen.

Let’s rewind a long, long way … back to the days when Allen was a young nutcase, a stand-up comic, a renegade movie-maker and one of the weirdest writers on the planet. You’ll find proof of this last assertion in his books “Without Feathers,” “Getting Even” and “Side Effects.” you can get them separately, but I’ve got mine in a single volume.

Here’s a sample that will not only give you the flavor of his work, but also explain the title of the first book:

“How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not 'the thing with feathers.' The thing with feathers turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.

Or try this “thought:”
Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only for food: frequently there must be a beverage.

Allen was obviously a man in quest of intellectual input. He then outputted it in the form of mockery, absurdity and complete nonsense. Allen samples and remixes history, philosophy, poetry, college course descriptions, slang etymology, Melville, Milton, Noam Chomsky, ballet and, of course, religion.

Pieces include the letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo -- if Vincent had been a dentist. Then there’s Death (A Play). Is this an existential masterpiece or a parody of one or both? It’s certainly more fun to read than Robbe-Grillet, I can tell you that much. Try this bit of business, when a mob thinks Kleinman is a killer:

John: “Let’s sting him up right now!”

Kleinman: “Don’t come near me! I don’t like string!”

What exactly will you gain by reading these books? Will you find them funny or more like a museum of what was once funny to previous generations? I can’t say, but I suggest you try it out.

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