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Apropos of Nothing Reviews

Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen

Apropos of Nothing

Woody Allen

3.14 out of 5

8 reviews

Imprint: Arcade Publishing
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: 1 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9781951627348

The long-awaited, enormously entertaining memoir by one of the great artists of our time. In this candid and often hilarious memoir, the celebrated director, comedian, writer, and actor Woody Allen offers a comprehensive, personal look at his tumultuous life.

3 stars out of 5
20 May 2020

"as witty as it is problematic"

Admirers of Allen will be accustomed to taking the rough (the past two decades of his films, say) with the smooth (most of the work that precedes them), and any book that didn’t contain its share of maddening flaws, oversights and insensitivity would scarcely be representative of him. The surprise is that he remains such a winning comic writer and chronicler, showing himself even in the closing pages to be the same sorrowful wit (“I’m 84, my life is almost half over”) and bruised romantic (on the high price he paid to be with Previn: “All worth it”) as he ever was, and no less inclined to love-bomb life’s miseries with bathos. “Like Bertrand Russell, I feel a great sadness for the human race,” he laments. “Unlike Bertrand Russell, I can’t do long division.” 

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
Rachel Cooke
10 May 2020

"the film-maker’s autobiography can be brutally honest but also a bore, and neither he nor Mia Farrow come out of it well"

No, he doesn’t come out of it well. But nor does Farrow (his twisted partiality is one thing, but facts are another, and it has to be said that it took her an awfully long time – about 40 years – to turn on her friend, Roman Polanski, who in 1978 pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor). To return to where we began, here’s another thing about omelettes: you can’t make one without breaking eggs. This is a horrible, painful and, above all, highly opaque story, and it always will be – up to, and including, the day it is inevitably mentioned in the first paragraph of a long newspaper obituary.

3 stars out of 5
2 May 2020

"Apropos is a funny book, both ha-ha and peculiar. "

Woody Allen is, of course, a figure of singular cultural stature, and his odd memoir would be of interest for that reason if no other. As in the films, so on the page, few people are so verifiably, inescapably themselves; that alone — the elaboration of a sensibility to its fullest extent — seems to constitute a kind of aesthetic achievement, one preserved in his work, the triumphs and failures alike. Not that he cares for a legacy. ‘Rather than live on in the hearts and mind of the public, I prefer to live on in my apartment.’

3 stars out of 5
20 Apr 2020

"The big questions are knocked back with glib quips"

The sense of sub-journalistic carelessness is heightened by a series of weird repetitions. On two occasions, with 60 pages between mentions, he introduces Paul Mazursky’s Scenes from a Mall by telling us that he has never seen the finished film. (Bette Midler, his co-star, was “really terrific”, of course.) The text is punctuated by a “let me say” here and an “as I mentioned earlier” there – as if a ghost writer were chasing after our Depression-era star while he hurtled towards a waiting limousine. It’s lazy. It’s haphazard. But it remains fun for those interested in the career.

3 stars out of 5
Fiona Sturges
9 Apr 2020

"While you can’t blame him for putting his point across forcefully, and for howling against perceived injustices, the spiteful tone helps no one"

He routinely plays down his talents, and wants us to know how little his films returned at the box office, but wastes no opportunity to list the luminaries who have showered him in praise. It’s also a familiar Allen routine to wonder why any woman would give him, a self-anointed schlemiel, the time of day romantically, but here they are rated ruthlessly on their looks... ...he saves most of his vitriol for Mia, whom he claims told him: “You took my daughter, now I’ll take yours.” He paints her as bitter, damaged and cruel, a woman who shopped for adopted children as if she were collecting ornaments, and then neglected and physically abused them. It makes for grim reading. While you can’t blame him for putting his point across forcefully, and for howling against perceived injustices, the spiteful tone helps no one.

3 stars out of 5
2 Apr 2020

"..his comic defences are his consistent and, in their way, thoroughly sincere response to a world he has countered for so long and so staggeringly successfully with his wit"

Still, while it’s jarring to be reading about Mia’s attempts to destroy him one moment and what a joy Alan Alda is to work with the next, the Allen fan will find plenty of details and plenty of delights in here. Do we get to know what he’s really like? Do we believe him at the end when he says, “Not believing in a hereafter, I really can’t see any practical difference if people remember me as a film director or a paedophile or at all”? Not entirely. Yet his comic defences are his consistent and, in their way, thoroughly sincere response to a world he has countered for so long and so staggeringly successfully with his wit.

3 stars out of 5
Dwight Garner
26 Mar 2020

"...(a) sometimes appealing, occasionally funny, sad and somewhat tawdry book"

This tone deafness starts before the book has even properly begun. On the dedication page, he writes, “For Soon-Yi, the best. I had her eating out of my hand and then I noticed my arm was missing.” I had to rub my eyes with my freshly sanitized fingers and read that second sentence again... Near the end of this sometimes appealing, occasionally funny, sad and somewhat tawdry book, he writes: “I’m 84; my life is almost half over. At my age, I’m playing with house money. Not believing in a hereafter, I really can’t see any practical difference if people remember me as a film director or a pedophile or at all. All that I ask is my ashes be scattered close to a pharmacy.”

4 stars out of 5
25 Mar 2020

"the book, sandwiching this endlessly sad, vexed saga, is guilt-triggering for the simpler reason of being so much fun"

Three hundred of these 400 pages cover, unapologetically and with gossipy glee, the unrelated sprawl of Allen’s life and work. But the harrowing Dylan drama isn’t minimised – it’s addressed in unsparing detail at the two moments in Allen’s life (1992 and now) when it has attracted most public attention. And given the emphatic flow of his arguments, it’s easy to see why the Farrow clan would have preferred it if Allen’s side of the story – familiar as much of it might be, though never walked through quite so forensically before – hadn’t seen the light of day.