Saturday, March 18, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 013: Getting Even”

One of my earliest movie-going memories (and I don’t think my parents realized that a four-year-old would be able to recall a random night at the drive-in) is from Woody Allen’s film, Everything You Want to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). In the final segment of the movie, a giant, disembodied---uuummm---breast goes skooching across the countryside milking people to death. That visual, that CONCEPT stuck with me, for some reason. Body parts with minds of their own… The man responsible for that film (and that memory) also wrote books. This is one of them.

Woody Allen – Getting Even (1971/1978)

I’m a fan of absurdism (if that isn’t obvious), and one of the most expert and prolific proponents of this style is Woody Allen. Yes, I know his personal life, as reported in the scandal-obsessed media, has caused more than a few eyebrows to twitch, but his movies are often quite enjoyable, and can even be on the border (or full-fledged citizens) of genius. Love & Death, Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Zelig, Deconstructing Harry, What’s Up Tiger Lily, Bananas, Small Time Crooks, Midnight in Paris---I could go on---are some of the greatest comedies ever put on film, and I will always love and appreciate these movies, whether their director is a sicko or not…

Now this book, Getting Even, is a collection of early writing from Mr. Allen’s career, with some of these pieces first seeing publication as far back as 1966. Interestingly, some of the gags and concepts that would later show up in films like Bananas and Love & Death were first worked out in these intriguing tales. It’s a fact that the full blue-print for Midnight in Paris (which wasn’t released until 2011) can be found in one of Woody’s ancient stories, present here as “A Twenties Memory,” which was published a solid 40 years before the movie came out!!!

Movie anecdotes aside, the stories in this collection are all short, usually focused on a single theme (organized crime, literary criticism, psychiatry, Count Dracula…), and all pack a joke into about every third line. His humor here, as in the early movies, is farcical and ridiculous, and it really does hold up well in written form. I still laughed loud enough to bug my wife while reading this book in bed over the last few nights, and I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who’s seen the funny films a hundred times, loved them, and wants some new(ish) jokes to chew on in Woody’s unique style. A very fun book, but if you don’t like Woody Allen, or stories that are genuinely clever and funny, you might want to look elsewhere.

---Richard F. Yates

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