Mere Anarchy, by Woody Allen
If you are reading this book, you are likely going to find at least some enjoyment in it. Do you like a somewhat absurd view of reality that blends banal truth and obvious fantasy elements? Are you interested in the Yiddish-American culture of New York City as well as the entertainment industry? Have you liked one or more movies by Woody Allen (for me, interestingly enough, the first film of his I ever saw, which I liked, was Match Point)? The more questions you can answer in the affirmative, the more likely you are to appreciate this short collection of short stories that is barely over the 150 page mark. When I got this particular book, I didn’t know that it was short stories–I was expecting one of his plays, but I was pleased enough with the material and found plenty to smile at, and that is likely to be a response that many people have to this particular book. A reader to this book should know what they are getting into–this book is extremely Jewish, of the kind that is self-effacing and filled with very Woody Allen-like narrators who are invariably put-upon and not entirely competent Jewish men of some kind or another.
There are eighteen short stories in this collection, and most of the stories are very short–averaging less than ten pages apiece. If they are not the sort of stories that one could picture as being turned into full-length film treatments–which is why they are short stories collected here in a suitably anarchic collection–they are at least the sort of episodes that one could easily imagine in the auteur’s work. The stories demonstrate the author’s love of bad puns, as nearly every story has some sort of ridiculous title that promises an equally ridiculous story, and generally delivers. For example, among the funnier stories is the narrative of someone who writes original prayers and ends up fleeing to Tierra Del Fuego in order to avoid the long arm of gangsters who think his prayers are a sham. In another story someone tries to avoid investing in a film project that is sure to flop because of its subject matter and approach. Another story, set outside of New York for a change, jokes about how the law concerning not removing tags from mattresses is used to stop a rural crime wave. Another story is a humorous negotiation between two people about a film where one party has the original prints and demands (and receives) a cut of the film’s revenue in order to hand it over.
If you didn’t know Woody Allen wrote short stories, this book is apparently one of at least a couple volumes of them, which have been published in magazines that I apparently don’t read (or else I would have known it myself). And if you find the idea of reading short and absurd stories that would be well-suited to short films if the director ever wanted to go in that direction–which doesn’t appear to be the case so far–appealing, this book will definitely be an enjoyable one. As someone who greatly enjoys reading about absurd situations including those relating to life in show business, this book was definitely enjoyable to me, and the works were short enough that the wide gulf between the author and I when it comes to issues of morality and belief systems. In terms of being people with absurd and sometimes ridiculous senses of humor and a love of joking about life and its quirks as well as about matters of life and death and spirituality and culture, this book is appealing to me and likely to someone who has a similarly cerebral and offbeat sense of humor as well.