Everybody Missed the Point of “Apropos of Nothing”

Finally finished Woody Allen’s engrossing and hilarious memoir and have been reading the reviews along the way, as well. The press has focused on the issues between Woody and former lover Mia Farrow and yes, the last third of the book is about what it’s like to live falsely accused of a horrible crime. But that’s not what the book is about and it’s too bad that we now lack popular reviewers who can read more deeply.

Apropos of Nothing is the tale of Allen’s artistic success and his loves along the way, for sure. Woody’s taken uncanny heat in the press for describing attractive women as attractive women, particularly for his jokes and poetic license. He’s even breen criticized for enthusiastically participating in the free love decades, as if the right thing to have done would have been to abstained in preparation for pruder times. But even this is really not what the book is about.

The heart of the memoir is Woody’s description of his character Zelig, the human chameleon who takes on the beliefs, appearance and mannerisms of anybody he’s with:

Zelig was about how we all want to be accepted, to fit in, to not offend, that we often present a different person to different people knowing which person might best please. With someone who loves Moby Dick, for example, the protagonist will go along and find things to like and praise about it. With one who dislikes the book, the Zelig character will get with the program and dislike it. In the end, this obsession with conformity leads to fascism.”

Zelig, trying too hard to fit in…

This is a memoir about the virtues of self-direction, without deference to the opinions, desires and morals of others not because there’s anything wrong with other people or the way they think, but because it’s dangerous for society when individuals cave to what they perceive as the whims of others.

Allen’s movies have never been for everybody, and that’s intentional. He remarks in the book that he has no interest in collaborating with his audience on his films, so he’ll allow his backers to hold focus groups to inform their marketing but he won’t change his films based on some sample audience reaction. In an age where technocrats think they can quantify creative success, Allen’s story is a refreshing counterpoint.

In the end, his insistence on being himself is why he’s such a polarizing figure. Too few people are willing to do that in a world designed to reward those who merrily go along. This is the tale of a great iconoclast.

Cockroaches and Epiphanies

Last night I read The Cockroach a novella by Ian McEwan where a cockroach undergoes a purposeful, though Kafkaesque transformation into the British Prime Minister. It is a lot of light-hearted fun.

McEwan’s novel got me thinking about potential fictional representations of America’s president and those thoughts crashed into Josh Marshall’s observations about the behavior of post-impeachment Trump, a man who seems beyond all epiphany.

Which brought me to the moment of great change in the last part of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:

“Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!”

How would that end, were his Scrooge our Trump? I see: “Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!”

“‘TOTAL EXONERATION!’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.”

What other ending could there be?

The Devil Is In The Writing

If you don’t read enough poetry, and I don’t, please know that The Paris Review will email you a daily poem. They tend to be a great length for morning reading and are always well selected. Today’s was “Mephistophelese” by Boris Pasternak, which includes the delightful:

“The devil in blood-red stockings with rose rosettes 
danced along the sunset-watered road—
he was as red 
as a boiling lobster.”

Coincidentally, I’ve had a short humor piece published today at Promptmag. It’s about a demon writing to Satan to report success in Iowa (and also to ask to come home.)

Enjoy!

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