From Publishers Weekly
This collection of 18 sketches, 10 of which appeared in the New Yorker, is Allens 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 boatespecially 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 doesnt quite measure up to Allens Without Feathers (1975), there are pieces herefor instance, the report on Mickey Mouses testimony at the Michael Eisner/Michael Ovitz trialthat will put a rictus on your kisser.
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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 OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved