March 24, 2020

"And how have I taken all of this? And why is it when attacked I rarely spoke out or seemed overly upset?"

"Well, given the malignant chaos of a purposeless universe, what’s one little false allegation in the scheme of things? Second, being a misanthropist has its saving grace — people can never disappoint you."

From Woody Allen's new memoir "Apropos of Nothing," quoted at Madison.com.

Also: "One of the saddest things of my life was that I was deprived of the years of raising Dylan and could only dream about showing her Manhattan and the joys of Paris and Rome. To this day, Soon-Yi and I would welcome Dylan with open arms if she’d ever want to reach out to us as Moses (Farrow) did, but so far that’s still only a dream."

I read the first few pages (at the Amazon link) and loved the writing style — full of vivid images and quick observations that are serious and comical. So I put it in my Kindle.

56 comments:

Ken B said...

If we ever get back to normal, you are so gonna be canceled.

Phidippus said...

He's a good writer. I remember reading his book of short pieces "Side Effects" years back before the fit hit the shan. It was funny. After that, just hearing his name gives me the creeps. And of course his later movies stunk profoundly.

Ken B said...

I thought Hachette was craven and despicable for canceling the book, and have not bought a book or Kindle from a hachette imprint since. Eventually I will stop checking. But not yet.

Lucien said...

I think being falsely accused of something has salutary effects in how one appreciates the tendency of people to believe accusations, the essential importance of due process, and the fragility of our presumption of innocence. Maybe that might (if the accusation is false) enrich Mr. Allen’s perspective on things. I have hoped that it makes Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh better judges.

Ryan said...

If someone arrived from outer space and knew nothing of Woody Allen the person, but consumed all his books and movies, they would recognize him as a prolific genius. Who cares if he has it might have some personal flaws?

When I was a teenager I read a copy of Side Effecfs and lived it. I rented a couple of his movies, and of course my mom walked in during a rare sex scene and turned off the TV. And then my little brother found my copy of Ulysees and flipped to the end and started reading the part where it gets a bit racy. He threw it in the woodstove without telling me. Annoyed, I appealed to my bishop, who happened to be a professor of English literature and a renowned university. He AGREED with my parents and vrother. At that point, as a teen I knew I had to choose between art and religion. I chose art.

Ralph L said...

I was deprived of the years of raising Dylan

Love the passive voice.

Lurker21 said...

But the price of Moses "reaching out" to his father was turning on his mother. I don't reproach him for that - there's not much to be said for either Woody or Mia as parents or human beings - but Woody doesn't seem to show much self-awareness. Sort of an understatement, I guess: self-aware people aren't going to get sexually involved with their partner's children.

I think Dan Wakefield quoted a friend as saying that she wasn't sorry she went through psychoanalysis, but was glad she got out when she did because people who kept at it lost their sense of guilt. That fits for Woody. After all the talk, you may just end up doing whatever you feel like doing. The heart wants whatever the hell the heart wants.

Lurker21 said...

Woody's Sixties movies were funny and his Seventies movies were very good indeed, but he's mostly been repeating himself since then and showing just how limited and imitative he is. He's either in over his head with the philosophy or annoyingly lowbrow.

Maybe that's unfair. Maybe I put him down because some people build him up too much or because I used to really like his pictures and now feel ashamed of that. Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point weren't awful, but he does repeat himself and he's not as brilliant as some fans seem to think. Wonder Wheel made Kate Winslet, playing the familiar Mia-type character, into (essentially) a murderer and settling personal scores like that on screen leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Sebastian said...

"loved the writing style"

I guess the shtick still works.

The other side of being a misanthropist is that, since you assume the worst and people never disappoint you, you never disappoint yourself--so anything goes.

Mike Sylwester said...

A superb article about the relationship of Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, based on long interviews of both of them

bagoh20 said...

I know God left us all as flawed vessels, and that has some purpose, ,but man, did he have to be so thorough?

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

I hope he reads the audio book. I rarely listen to books but that will be joyous exception. I've never believed the accusations. Nothing else in his life ever indicated any such behavior and he never acted guilty. The one child who got away from his psycho Mother and became a therapist, defended Woody and said there was nothing to the allegations. I bought side effects and read and enjoyed it when it came out, as well. I think I still have it around here somewhere...

Ron Winkleheimer said...

At that point, as a teen I knew I had to choose between art and religion. I chose art.

Some of the best art in the world was created from religious impulses. Just because some religious people are prigs doesn't mean all of them are.

Anyway, my first thought on seeing the post was to wonder how the book got published. Seeing it on Amazon I wondered if he self-published but I see that Simon & Schuster. I guess the junior employees there know their place.

doctrev said...

Publicly regretting not being able to spend more time with the daughter you molested... well, there's a reason the word "chutzpah" exists. I would add that handing out royalties to despicably evil men on account of their "talents" as a wordsmith is an intensely feminist act.

Mary E. Glynn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan said...

In this case, it's an entire religion of sexually-repressed prigs. The choice involved only that religion. Most other religions can tolerate art or even promote art. How can something be true if it cannot recognize art?

Mary E. Glynn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ron Winkleheimer said...

How can something be true if it cannot recognize art?

I'm going to have to give that a big Amen.

Ryan said...

In the book, Lolita was an adolescent when Humbert decided to marry the mother. Of course, Nabokov himself was a happily married man who created a fictional character in Dolly Haze, Humbert, Quilty and the gang.

I find it hard to read the book now, because Nabokov's writing style turns me off. I loved it when I was younger. Of course, English was not his first language, and he overcompensated.

Ryan said...

Nabokov commented on Lolita that there were only three taboos in American publishing: incest, interracial marriage and "the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106."

He is definately right about #1! I think we are ok now with interracial marriage and atheism.

William said...

Definitely a web of pathology, but it's hard to tell who's the fly and who's the spider. The review I read claims that he lays the blame for the whole mess on Mia Farrow.... Well, maybe he got a good book out of it. I'll pass on reading the book, however. It sounds self serving..... Over the full arc of his life he was overly praised and here, towards the end, he might be unfairly punished. He's 84. I'm not sure the extent of his sins, but he mostly got away with them. I'm not sure that there are any useful lessons to be learned from the lives of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Horseman, pass by.

TML said...

"misanthrope"

Big Mike said...

I see a multitude of questions here. Are the accusations against Woody that he sexually abused Dylan credible? Ronan believes them, but anyone looking at today’s divorce litigation know that it is trivially easy to make such allegations, and almost as easy to plant false memories in a child. So, unproven. Is he still a genius? I don’t think so, and I am not alone? Was he ever a genius? My subjective take is affirmative. I think most people agree. Where I’m going with this is the following question: if the allegations about child abuse are true, does his genius excuse them? I vote no. I don’t think genius excuses any criminal act, much less a heinous criminal act.

Final question, a two-parter. Were the editors at Hatchette out of line in staging a walkout, and was the capitulation to their demands a reasonable response? I say no and no. Hatchette Is in business to make money, and this treatment of an author whose name alone was going to sell a lot of books is unwise, to say the least. In my opinion the proper response would have been to give the editors an hour to be back at their desks or HR will initiate termination procedures. But that’s just me. Or is it?

Ralph L said...

Wiki on Nabokov: much to his patriotic father's disappointment, Nabokov could read and write in English before he could in Russian. Most of the Romanovs had English nannies.

mccullough said...

Woody knew Mia Farrow was nuts and still had a relationship with her.

Avoid crazy women

Left Bank of the Charles said...

"with open arms"

Ralph L said...

The hatchet wielders probably increased his book sales. Men molesting their biological daughters is extremely rare. Would we give it any credence if he hadn't run off with the adopted one?

rcocean said...

It should be remembered that Farrow and Allen were never married and always maintained separate houses. I'm sure Allen regrets not showing his son Paris or whatever but I sincerely doubt Allen regrets that much. I' might read the memoir just to see what Allen says about Weinstein. I'm sure he knew the score - and lets see if Woody talks about why he kept silent.

rcocean said...

Mia Farrow was a complete flake. But then Woody Allen was no better. Trying to support either of them, is like choosing a side in Hitler v. Stalin. The smartest thing Sinatra did was divorcing her ass in the 60s.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

In my opinion the proper response would have been to give the editors an hour to be back at their desks or HR will initiate termination procedures.

I wouldn't have given them an hour. At this point the people who walked out are running the company. Odds are, they will run it into the ground. There are plenty of people willing to work for starvation wages in one of the highest-cost cities in the world in a dying industry because they think it is prestigious.

The Crack Emcee said...

He said Mia farrow's reaction was totally appropriate. How can that be if he's innocent?

The Crack Emcee said...

Not worrying about whether or not you're right or wrong, because you're floating on a rock in space, does have a certain logic to it. I'm not sure my parents would accept it, though.

DimWhit said...

He married his daughter. Not his biological daughter (not that that matters), but the
daughter for whom he was acting in loco parentis. That arrangement gave him a power over her that should not be excused.

"But his art!" I know, I know: my wife is willing to give Harvey Weinstein a pass because of all his great movies. (I submit if Harvey had any talent at all he'd make good movies from his prison cell.)

Lurker21 said...

Dylan wasn't Woody's biological child. Ronan (born Satchel) was his only biological child with Mia, though he adopted Dylan and Moses.

I don't believe Woody sexually abused her, but I also don't think Mia made it up. My take is that she interpreted ambiguous situations in a way colored by her feelings about Woody and Soon-Yi and then did what she could to make the story stick, not inventing it, but coaching the children in what she thought were the details so that they would confirm the story in court. It's hard to side with either one, but since Woody appears to be the saner, smarter one, one could conclude ought to have known better and acted differently.

rightguy said...

I can only pity Woody when I read this : "...Well, given the malignant chaos of a purposeless universe, what’s one little false allegation in the scheme of things? Second, being a misanthropist has its saving grace — people can never disappoint you."
What a bleak world for his mind to live in ! No wonder he is anhedonic. AA posted an interview of Billy Graham by WA a while back that contrasted Woody's philosophy with Graham's seemingly simple Christianity. You saw more depth to Graham and more superficiality to Allen.

Your glass will always be half full if you wish it to be so.

And yes, Woody Allen is a writer with a capital W. I think I'll Kindle that, too.

rcocean said...

But his art!" I know, I know: my wife is willing to give Harvey Weinstein a pass because of all his great movies. (I submit if Harvey had any talent at all he'd make good movies from his prison cell.)

If women are willing to "Take one for the arts Team" then they should make it known and save everyone time and effort when they get raped.

Narr said...

I found my dog-eared copy of Side Effects last week and have been laughing since. Guy was funny; I may have Without Feathers around here too. And I've been thinking about rewatching the comedies, just to see if they have still have the magic.

His 'serious' movies bored me from the start, so I haven't seen most of them.

Narr
No time to follow the ins and outs of Sinatra-Farrow-Allen family pathologies

JZ said...


Woody made a movie called "Sweet and Lowdown" with Sean Penn. I don't see it mentions much. It's remarkable because it's wholesome.

Richard Dolan said...

"the malignant chaos of a purposeless universe"

If "purposeless" universe is your starting point, there's not much available to distinguish "malignant" chaos from any other kind of chaos, other than (perhaps) whatever pointless purpose we create for ourselves (which he would probably have to say was doomed to failure because of that mortality thingy). If that's where you're starting from, the reality of death creates so many dead ends.

PJ57 said...

Believe all women!

Big Mike said...

@Ron Winkleheimer, it would take at least an hour to get the lethargic, set-in-their-ways HR department spun up.

StephenFearby said...


"I read the first few pages (at the Amazon link) and loved the writing style — full of vivid images and quick observations that are serious and comical. So I put it in my Kindle."

Cruel neutrality morphing into political incorrectness.

But that's OK.

etbass said...

Crack! Good to see ya back, man.

Robert Cook said...

"He married his daughter. Not his biological daughter (not that that matters), but the daughter for whom he was acting in loco parentis. That arrangement gave him a power over her that should not be excused."

According to Allen, he never acted as a surrogate father for any of Mia's children. They lived separately throughout their relationship, he on the East side of Central Park, she on the West Side. She was his girlfriend, they were were her children, and she acted as their parent. He claims to have had no parental relationship to those children.

Still, one would think an older man would have enough propriety, self-restraint, and grace to not involve himself romantically with one of his girlfriend's barely adult adopted daughters. "The heart wants what it wants," a line from Emily Dickinson, is a too glib and self-absolving apologia that I believe he used in one of his movies. The heart may want what it wants, but the mind can evaluate whether that want is better denied than indulged, and can keep the heart's wants in check.

I Callahan said...

The heart may want what it wants, but the mind can evaluate whether that want is better denied than indulged, and can keep the heart's wants in check.

You sound eerily conservative here, Bob...

h said...

One of the reasons I read Althouse everyday is that the quality of the comments is often (not always) very high. On this stream, Phidippus, KenB Lucien, Ryan, Lurker21, Sylwester, BigMike, Mccullough, rocean, and others make points that are thoughtful and reasonable, and either reflect my thinking, or provoke my thinking. For some reason, this particular comment thread has avoided the "your mother wears combat boots" "No your mother wears combat boots" kind of exchange. Is it because there is no Trump in this comment thread?

Nichevo said...

According to Allen, he never acted as a surrogate father for any of Mia's children. They lived separately throughout their relationship, he on the East side of Central Park, she on the West Side.


Some relationship!


She was his girlfriend, they were were her children, and she acted as their parent. He claims to have had no parental relationship to those children.

A bunch of useless bloody loonies!

Nichevo said...

Sorry, Ken B.

Josephbleau said...

The fact that Mia Farrow was heavily doing Frank Sinatra and perhaps seeking an excuse for doing so, lessens the impact of her testimony to me.

GingerBeer said...

I've long considered Woody Allen a bit of a creep. But I oppose this self-censorship by Hachette. Currently for sale from the highly tuned morals of the Hachette Book Group (using its "Phoenix" imprint) is "Commandant of Auschwitz," the biography of Nazi Waffen-SS commander of Auschwitz Rudolph Hoess. No ordinary Nazi, Hoess was ObersturmbannfĂĽhrer of the Death Heads Unit. Look, I understand. Hachette has to draw the line somewhere. And good thing the Millenials at Hachette have such a poor knowledge of history, otherwise, they'd have to stand around outside for lunch hour again.

https://www.hachette.com.au/rudolf-hoess/commandant-of-auschwitz

Banjo said...

Woody was very a smart and funny guy which smart and funny people--the kind who comment here approve and appreciate--and then he got famous and modestly rich and no longer felt it necessary to bow to the moral norms most think important. "I'm an artist!" At that point malignant nihilism took the wheel and steered him into the queasy squalor Nabokov wrote about so amusingly but (probably) not in the belief it was acceptable.

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

Woody Allen's antagonists probably did him a favor by complaining about Hachette publishing his book. He quickly found another publisher, and is even now receiving free publicity. It even got "banned," so now you have to buy it and see what all the fuss is all about.

Ryan said...

I would never say artists get a "pass" for doing wrong: "I'm an artist" is not a defense to any modern crime or civil cause of action.

Woody Allen was never charged with a crime or been sued in tort. Nor has he sued his accuser sued for defamation, for harm caused by what he claims are false allegations. As neither side chose to avail themselves of legal process, or perhaps were unable to do so (e.g. statute of limitations, or inability to show damages), we are all left without the fact finding and jury verdict that would have shed light on whether he is in fact a criminal person, as with Weinstein, or is merely just accused of doing bad things.

So, what are we to make of Woody Allen? Granted, he probably has *moral* defects. Even severe ones. BUT: many (most?) great artists were not morally good people. Hemmingway murdered himself. Gauguin raped underage girls. Picasso was a chronic adulterer, and Frank Lloyd Wright abandoned his wife and children and ran off with another man's wife. William S. Burroughs got drunk and accidentally killed his wife. Ezra Pound was an anti-semite. Norman Mailer got drunk and stabbed his wife in the chest with a knife, twice. Charles Dickens had an affair with an 18-year old, then divorced his wife with whom he fathered 10 children. Woody Allen is alleged to have molested his underaged adopted daughter, a charge he denies. Big deal.

Proper treatment of women and children was never a prerequisite to creating works of art. I'm not going to stop enjoying Woody Allen, just like I'm not going to stop enjoying any art because of what the person who made it may have said or did.

Lurker21 said...


I'm going to swell with pomposity here and quote some Latin: "Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi," literally "What is permissible for Jupiter is not permissible for a bull". Whether anything is permissible to genius or not, so long as it doesn't break the law, the same might not hold for entertainers.

If Cosby or Weinstein had been acquitted or if no one brought them to court, people would still have problems with their work, because of the allegations and what they implied about them. Sometimes you can separate the maker from the work, but in Allen's case, that's harder, since he puts so much of his personality into his films.

If we're not talking about putting Woody (or Mia) in prison or banning their work, anybody can think whatever they want and argue about it if they like. The argument won't be resolved. I think there's another Latin phrase about no accounting for taste.

Banjo said...

Like it or not, there is such a thing as public opinion. It is an informal court that can levy heavy penalties, including financial. If he were still around you could ask Fatty Arbuckle.