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Remembering Woody

Found this reading list in The Guardian today from an author for whom I have deeply mixed feelings—yep, it’s the Woodman, doing a typically odd bit of press in advance of his new movie.

Back in middle and high school, I absolutely loved Woody Allen. Sleeper and Bananas were two of the funniest movies I’d ever seen, plus Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (a little confusing to a sixth grader, but no less fun). Yet nothing cracked me up as much as his short story collection Side Effects—one of the few books I literally read to pieces. The opening story “Remembering Needleman” probably influenced my high school creative writing more than any other work—which didn’t always fly so well, especially in a certain 19th century lit class…

And then, the Soon Yi news broke. Man, wasn’t that a huge deal? I remember being pretty creeped out by the news, not least because growing up in Manhattan I had friends who went to school with some of Mia’s kids. And yet, when I got an invite to see Woody play the clarinet soon after, did I turn it down? Nope, sat at a table right near the front—even waited afterward to see him get into his car.

Time and apparent fidelity to Soon Yi have certainly helped Woody’s rep, but they haven’t exactly exonerated him. And it’s pretty depressing to see two of his book picks are Catcher in the Rye (misunderstood outsider) and a bio of Elia Kazan (persecuted auteur), as if he still sees himself as a victim. Still, I have a huge soft spot for some of his later movies like Everyone Says I Love You and Match Point. And when his most recent story collection Mere Anarchy came out, I faithfully got my copy.

So I’m still pretty torn about Woody. What do you think? Am I cutting the man too much slack? Or is this a question of drawing a line between the author and his work? Do you make similar distinctions for other controversial authors?

3 Responses to Remembering Woody

  1. Kim says:

    I’d agree 90%, John, except my positive feelings are due to Woody’s older work (I wondered why he didn’t list “Death in Venice” as part of his reading list, a la Annie Hall). With all due respect, I thought Match Point was just a rehash of Crimes and Misdemeanors. But the Soon Yi business still creeps me out, too, no matter how long it’s been.

    Just as an FYI: when I first saw the title of your post I thought someone had written a lovely obituary for my cat who last month met his untimely demise because he could never give up his wandering ways, though he wasn’t much of a filmmaker. RIP Woody Cat.

  2. I liked Everyone Says I Love You and Match Point, but it’s hard for me to draw a line between the author and their work. For instance, I wouldn’t buy a book by O.J., Kim Jong-il, or Snooki no matter how great the reviews were. I’m not a judgmental person by nature and have worked with child molesters, murderers, and gang bangers, but that doesn’t mean I’d support them monetarily if they wrote books. I have mixed feelings about Woody and am not sure if I’d buy a book by him or not–but I haven’t so far.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I consider Woody Allen a perv and pedophile. Had he not been Woody Allen he would likely have gone to prison. I haven’t seen a movie of his since.

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