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Mere Anarchy Paperback – October 14, 2008

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Mere Anarchy + The Insanity Defense: The Complete Prose + Side Effects
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812979508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979503
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of 18 sketches, 10 of which appeared in the New Yorker, is Allen’s first in 25 years. The animating comedy is part S.J. Perelman and part borscht belt: Allen piles the ludicrous on top of the ridiculous and tops it with an acidic lemon squeeze, and then just keeps the jokes coming. So when the babysitter in "Nanny Dearest" describes her boss—"Bidnick gorges himself on Viagra, but the dosage makes him hallucinate and causes him to imagine he is Pliny the Elder"—we laugh; when, in a piece making fun of the New York Times science page, "Strung Out," Allen notes that "to a man standing on the shore, time passes quicker than to a man on a boat—especially if the man on the boat is with his wife"—we groan. Sometimes the simplest pieces work best: man goes to New Age retreat and learns to levitate, but not to get back down. While this collection doesn’t quite measure up to Allen’s Without Feathers (1975), there are pieces here—for instance, the report on Mickey Mouse’s testimony at the Michael Eisner/Michael Ovitz trial—that will put a rictus on your kisser.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's been 25 years since Woody Allen's last humor collection, and for lovers of the New Yorker "casual" (a blend of goofy personal essay and literary parody), that's far too long. Most of these pieces appeared originally in the New Yorker , but there are a handful of originals as well, all of which will please those determined souls who like their humor distinctly old school ("On a Bad Day You Can See Forever," a rant about the horrors of rehabbing a condo, begins with the narrator reading Dante and wondering why there is no circle in hell for contractors). The topsy-turvy literary allusions pour from Allen's pen like bullets from a Gatling gun (an appropriately obscure simile), exposing the intellectual pretensions of a ragtag assortment of Allenesque everymen--endearingly unkempt nebbishes who, despite knowing their Dostoevsky, can't quite deal with the absurdities of daily life. Take Flanders Mealworm, the unfairly unheralded author of The Hockfleisch Chronicles, who, desperate for cash, agrees to write a novelization of a Three Stooges movie: "Calmly and for no apparent reason, the dark-haired man took the nose of the bald man in his right hand and slowly twisted it in a long, counterclockwise circle." If Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe weren't exactly what Yeats had in mind when he used the phrase "mere anarchy" in "The Second Coming," they should have been. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is Woody's best writing to date!
The little stories are mostly monotonous and unfunny.
Nothing like that remotely exists here.
Alan Weiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brad Shorr on July 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The two funniest books I ever read were "Without Feathers" and "Getting Even", so my expectations were impossibly high for "Mere Anarchy." But almost to my surprise, Woody Allen's new book at least equals and maybe surpasses them both.

Allen's writing skills are off the charts, whatever the genre. At times, his sentence structure is so intricate and precise, his vocabulary so eccentrically obscure, that his setups become funnier than his punchlines:

"I was supremely confident my flair for atmosphere and characterization would sparkle alongside the numbing mulch ground out by studio hacks. Certainly the space atop my mantel might be better festooned by a gold statuette than by the plastic dipping bird that now bobbed there ad infinitum..."

This particular vignette, "This Nib for Hire", is particularly hilarious: the story of Flanders Mealworm, a pretentious, out of work novelist writing a novelization of a Three Stooges short.

In the later chapters, Allen drops the highly stylized prose and reverts to earlier form, where he simply piles absurdities on his paragraphs like pastrami on rye. This too is sidesplitting:

"How could I not have known that there are little things the size of 'Planck length' in the universe, which are a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter? Imagine if you dropped one in a dark theater how hard it would be to find. And how does gravity work? And if it were to cease suddenly, would certain restaurants still require a jacket? ..."

Allen is funny on every level:

Funny premises--"Frederich Nietzsche's Diet Book", Savile Row suits impregnated with fragrances, a lighting double kidnapped by Indian terrorists while on location.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By HumorReader on June 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is good, not great, Woody Allen. Certainly not vintage Woody. But His deft economy of word useage, the analogies, the superb timing, even in print, are all there. I enjoyed the book, yet it left me with a rather empty feeling. I don't feel it's as memorable, as, say, David Sedaris. But this is still quite good.

If you're an Allen fan, especially a new fan, don't stop with this book. Also check out "The Complete Prose of Woody Allen."Complete Prose of Woody Allen
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on November 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Many may only know Woody Allen from his films . . . but he has also
written three very funny collections of short stories: GETTING EVEN,

Over 25 years have passed since the publication of that last book,
so when I saw he recently came out with MERE ANARCHY, I quickly
got my own copy to see if he has lost his touch . . . I'm happy to say
that he has not.

MERE ANARCHY, like his earlier efforts, covers a wide range of
topics . . . you'll find yourself laughing when you hear his observations
about sex, food or even how parents deal with the rejection
of their son into the best nursery school in Manhattan:

* In the days following the rejection, Anna Ivanovich became
listless. She quarreled with the nanny and accused her of
brushing Mischa's teeth sideways rather than up and down.
She stopped eating regularly and wept to her shrink. "I must
have transgressed against God's will to bring this on," she
wailed. "I must have sinned beyond measure-too many
shoes from Prada." She imagined that the Hampton Jitney
tried to run her over, and when Armani canceled her charge
account for no apparent reason, she took to her bedroom and
began having an affair. This was hard to conceal from Boris
Ivanovich, since he shared the same bedroom and asked
repeatedly who the man next to them was.

I also liked what Allen had to say about moving into a new

* It all began with the purchase of a small brownstone on
Manhattan's Upper West Side. Miss Wilpong, of Mengele
Realtors, promised us it was the buy of a lifetime, priced
modestly at a figure no higher than the cost of a stealth
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By P. Budney on June 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed these little comic treats , Woody Allen has not lost his talent for satire and the absurd . If you liked his other books, "Without Feathers", "Side Effects", etc , you will enjoy this new collection as well. I did need to check my dictionary for a few words that were new to me , but that is part of the fun. I doubt that "dacoit" , "tergiversation" "corybantic" ,"dumka" etc. are part of most people's lexicons, even the well read , so keep a dictionary handy and enjoy the laughs !
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By missed VINE VOICE on January 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
or just merely boring? the latter, sadly, is the case when it comes to Woody Allen's new tome Mere Anarchy.

When I was in my late teens, early 20's, I read both Without Feathers and Side Effects with relish, and a side of laughter. Mere Anarchy, however, was ready with a lot of difficulty and at under 200 pages I had to force my way to the last line of the last short story before closing the book with a sigh of relief.

Allen writes in a style reminiscent of 1950's pulp detective side of the mouth fiction coupled with a schmeer of insecure Jew. Each and every short story is written in the same style and tone. More than once a story used the "main character attempts to flee scene stage right" trick in an obvious and supposedly humorous fashion (by the second time it's not). There's no change in voice, making it difficult to distinguish between stories and thus reducing each the ridiculous situation(s) Allen specializes in into yawnfests.

I found only two of the stories humorous. "Strung Out" is an Allen take on the infamous "Sex Life of an Electron" short story that's been floating around for eons. Actually, I don't know if Allen is aware of the story, but reading it I couldn't help but make a comparison. "Surprise Rocks Disney Trial" is a highly original piece (for this book, at least) in which Mickey Mouse is deposed at the Michael Ovitz termination bonus trial where Mickey reveals some scandalous and salacious gossip about his fellow Disney costars.
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