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.

playwright, satirist, pundit, truth & fiction writer for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney’s

After a childhood of writing to U.S. and Soviet world leaders with his opinions on how they may resolve Cold War conflicts, New York City-born Michael Maiello launched his professional writing career as a high school student working for a local newspaper in New Mexico. After earning a degree in theater and playwriting, Michael returned to his native New York where he continues to live and work as a writer of satire, political analysis, plays, short stories, books, and even some lucrative ventures.

Besides The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and McSweeney’s, Michael’s work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times, Forbes (where he spent a decade in top editorial roles), Esquire, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and Reuters, to Robot Butt (which you should check out now), TPM Cafe, and Dagblog.

Michael has written plays for production at many well-known venues including the Joseph Papp Memorial Public Theatre, La Mama ETC, and Dixon Place, and festivals such as the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival, The Project Footlight Festival at Dixon Place, and the Abingdon Theatre Company’s 2012 benefit.

Unlike most funny writers, Michael doesn’t hide behind his laptop in a dank coffee shop. He’s performed stand-up comedy in New York at The Laugh Factory, The Comic Strip, Mo Pitkins, The Brick Theatre, and The Tank, as well as the 2006 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, and the 2007 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. His live comedy even earned him kudos in the New York Post’s Page Six.

But he’s not always out to make you laugh. Michael’s work includes serious commentary and analysis of this quickly crumbling world. Bridging the sometimes seismic gap between humor and socio-politics, he’s been a frequent guest on Forbes on Fox, Cavuto on Fox Business News, Kudlow on CNBC.

But he’s always happy to connect with other writers, performers, publishers, and producers: michaeldmaiello@gmail.com. He’ll happily and swiftly provided samples of his work, plays for production, and short stories and novels for publication.

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