According to host Lawrence Krauss, this almost two-hour Origins podcast with Woody Allen was recorded “earlier this year, before the pandemic.” It was done to promote Allen’s “Apropos of Nothing,” which published on 3.23.20. The pandemic became a widespread thing earlier that month, so they presumably spoke on or about 3.1.20 or perhaps in late February.
And yet the Allen chat didn’t appear until yesterday — Friday, 1.1.21.
“Final ‘Apropos’ Conclusion,” posted on 3.29.20: Most of us understood from the get-go that Woody Allen‘s “Apropos of Nothing” would be regarded through #MeToo-tinted glasses. Some in that camp are saying “I don’t think I can read this thing” (an actual Dana Harris tweet) and that’s fine. They’re excused. Nobody expected them to be attentive or fair.
Certain resentful, pissy-minded book reviewers are coughing up the usual bile. USA Today‘s Barbara VanDenburgh: “As if coping with the ravages of a global pandemic hasn’t made life unpleasant enough, now we’ve all got to talk about Woody Allen. Again.”
People aren’t calling his autobiography totally banal or shallow or both, but they’re saying large chunks of it are. Some have written that when he gets into the Mia-and-Dylan accusation thing that it feels like too much of an obsessive, woe-is-me pity party. Some have faulted Allen for not aping the meditative prose of Rainer Maria Rilke or William Styron.
Their beefs boil down to “how dare Woody write in his own unaffected voice? How dare he process life in the same way he’s been doing since he began writing jokes for Manhattan newspaper columnists in the early ’50s?”
Woody Allen is who he is. His voice is his voice. If you can read “Apropos of Nothing” with that in mind, you’ll have a better-than-decent time with it. And by that I mean diverting, chuckly, passable, fascinating, occasionally hilarious, nutritional as far as it goes.
“Apropos of Nothing” isn’t the deepest or the most probing piece of literary self-excavation or self-examination ever published, but it does contain a wonderfully ripe and buoyant recollection of Allen’s Brooklyn childhood and early teen years. It flattens out a bit when he becomes successful in the mid ‘60s, and a certain banality creeps in. But I weathered the mundane or underwhelming parts. Allen has a voice and a style and a certain shticky attitude, and much of the book is like listening to some streetcorner wise guy tell a story from a bar stool.
I am convinced that the section that exhaustively covers the ‘92 child-abuse accusation plus the Soon Yi furor is almost entirely truthful, if not 100%. Try reading Moses Farrow’s essay — it synchs up perfectly with Allen’s understanding of Mia Farrow‘s history and psychology and what probably happened.
Does Allen burrow in too deeply or obsessively in this section of the book? Not in my view. He’s talking about events that have shattered his life in some respects. If you had gone through the same thing and knew you were innocent when it came to Dylan and Mia’s accusation, wouldn’t you mount your defense with vigor and exactitude and leave no stone unturned?
The union with Soon Yi did seem odd and ill-advised at first, true, but they’ve been a loyal and loving couple for 27 or 28 years now. Two adopted college-age kids, etc. Does anyone recall Barbara Kopple’s Wild Man Blues? The facts are the facts. Things are as they are.
Expressing disgust at a candid, well-written (if occasionally redundant and overly gracious in terms of costars and collaborators) memoir by one of the most acclaimed film artists of our time, and in so doing signaling solidarity with the #MeToo cancelling and the cowardly Hachette capitulation, is not a becoming profile, to put it mildly.
“Apropos of Nothing” is fine. It’s a lively read. Somebody called it “devoid of feeling.” It has a dry, matter-of-fact tone, true, but in almost every chapter there’s a good deal of emotional moisture. From my perspective, at least. Allen uses all kinds of deflections and side-steppings and sardonic asides, but he delivers the goods. His goods. In his own way.
Vulture‘s Mark Harris has written a pissy, dismissive, incurious review of Woody Allen‘s “Apropos of Nothing.” He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, but reading the piece gave me stomach acid. Whereas I felt no adverse stomach sensations and experienced mostly pleasure while reading Allen’s book, especially the portion that covers his Brooklyn childhood and teen years.
Seriously — the first 80 or 90 pages of “Apropos of Nothing” are luscious. They’ll put a smile on your face. And Harris more or less pisses on them, in part because Allen delivers the same kind of riff that he used in Broadway Danny Rose, when Allen’s titular character describes a certain female cousin looking “like something you’d find in a live bait store.” Tribal self-loathing, par for the course, etc.
As I wrote on 3.29, Allen has a voice and a style and a certain shticky attitude, and much of the book is like listening to some streetcorner wise guy tell a story from a bar stool. And I’m sorry but unless you’re an Inspector Javert for the #MeToo community, “Apropos of Nothing” is an engaging read. Really. It’s easy to process. It flows right along. And it’s funny and cuts right through for the most part.
Most of Harris’s review makes a case that “Apropos of Nothing” isn’t the deepest or the most probing piece of literary self-excavation or self-examination ever published, which is true. But I weathered the mundane or underwhelming or overly glib parts. Harris, on the other hand, doesn’t like the fact that Allen is who he is, and that his voice is his voice.
“If you can read “Apropos of Nothing” with that in mind, “you’ll have a better-than-decent time with it,” I wrote. “And by that I mean diverting, chuckly, passable, fascinating, occasionally hilarious and nutritional as far as it goes.”
There are two portions of Harris’s review that made me fall over backwards in my chair.
“I understand those moviegoers who have no desire ever to watch or rewatch another Woody Allen movie,” Harris writes.
He does? One of our finest film historians and a highly perceptive film critic “understands” the nonsensical position of Woody haters, which is based on nothing but a blind belief that Dylan Farrow‘s account of what may or may not have happened on 8.4.92 is 100% reliable? There is nothing in terms of evidence or professional opinion (not to mention the account posted by Moses Farrow) that backs up Dylan’s account, but Harris nonetheless “understands” (seems to have no major argument with, feels a certain allegiance with) their ignorance. Shafts of light piercing through the clouds!
“But as a film historian, I can’t remove [Allen’s] films from my cultural vista,” Harris adds, “because they’re not only his. [For] Annie Hall is also an essential part of Diane Keaton’s filmography, and of Gordon Willis’s, and of Colleen Dewhurst’s, and of Jewish filmmaking, and of New York romantic comedy.”
In other words, if it weren’t for the charms of Annie Hall plus the creative participations of Keaton, Willis and Dewhurst, Harris might be tempted to remove Allen’s films from his “cultural vista”? I’m not going to bellow like a buffalo and slap my forehead as I list all the great and near-great films Allen has directed and written and acted in. But I will say this: I’m stunned.
Harris excerpt: “Dwight Garner, who artfully tweezed this book for the New York Times, wrote that he believes that ‘the less you’ve read about this case, the easier it is to render judgment on it.’ I have little to add to that except how deeply I wish I had read less.”
Harris seems to be saying that he hasn’t read Moses Farrow’s history of what happened between Woody, Mia and Dylan. If he has he certainly hasn’t mentioned this in the review. If he hasn’t read the essay, Harris should know that most of the details and accusations against Mia in Woody’s book are backed up by Moses, who by the way is a professional marriage and family therapist.
There’s a passage in Allen’s book that “stopped me in my tracks”, Harris writes. It says that “[Mia] didn’t like raising the kids and didn’t really look after them. It is no wonder that two adopted children would be suicides. A third would contemplate it, and one lovely daughter who struggled with being HIV-positive into her thirties was left by Mia to die alone of AIDS in a hospital on Christmas morning.”
But if memory serves this is all in Moses’ essay. Is Harris implying that Moses’ perspective and viewpoint aren’t worth considering? If he’s not implying this, why the hell didn’t he at least mention that Moses and Woody are on the same page?
Repeating: Expressing disgust at a candid, well-written (if occasionally redundant and overly gracious in terms of costars and collaborators) memoir by one of the most acclaimed film artists of our time, and in so doing signaling lockstep solidarity with #MeToo cancelling, is not a becoming profile, to put it mildly.