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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As thoroughly funny as ever
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,...
Published on July 10, 2007 by Brad Shorr

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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and just not funny
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...
Published on January 5, 2008 by missed


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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As thoroughly funny as ever, July 10, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
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.

Funny, perfectly drawn metaphors and similes--"I have also reviewed by own financial obligations, which have puffed up recently like a hammered thumb." Or, "With that, he scribbled in an additional ninety thousand dollars on the estimate, which had waxed to the girth of the Talmud while rivaling it in possible interpretations."

Funny character names--Hal Roachpaste, Reg Millipede, Agememnon Wurst and E. Coli Biggs, to name a very, very few.

Funny words--Myrmidon, crepescular, succubus, screed, vigorish, on and on.

And of course, funny jokes, everywhere--"She quarreled with the nanny and accused her of brushing Misha's teeth sideways rather than up and down." "As we know, for centuries Rome regarded the Open Hot Turkey Sandwich as the height of licentiousness ..."

Allen is the absolute master of fusing the sublime with the absurd. The result is a book that makes you think as well as laugh. That's a combination you don't often see these days!
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WOODY'S BACK, June 17, 2007
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars confections, June 26, 2007
By 
P. Budney (Amherst , MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen at his absurdist best, November 2, 2007
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
Many may only know Woody Allen from his films . . . but he has also
written three very funny collections of short stories: GETTING EVEN,
WITHOUT FEATHERS and SIDE EFFECTS.

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
property:

* 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
bomber. The dwelling was drumbeat as being in "move-in
condition," and perhaps it was, for the Jukes family or a
caravan of Gypsies.

And on the subject of crime, here was his take:
* At the trial Stubbs chose to act as his own lawyer, but a
conflict over his fee led to ill feelings. I visited Beau Stubbs
on Death Row, where numerous appeals kept him from
the gallows for a decade, in which time he used prison to
learn a trade and became a highly skilled airline pilot. I
was present when the final sentence was carried out. A
great sum of money was paid to Stubbs by Nike for the television
rights, allowing the company to put its logo on the front of his
black hood. Whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent
remains questionable, although studies show that the odds of
criminals committing another crime drops by almost half after
their execution.

MERE ANARCHY is Allen at his absurdist best . . . read it,
if for no other reason than it will put a smile on your face--something
we all need to do more often.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and just not funny, January 5, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Anarchy, July 2, 2007
By 
dpm "Dan" (Springfield, Illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
Woody Allen's writing has never been consistent, and that's as true as ever in Mere Anarchy, his first book in several years. Some of the stories, while still full of his trademark phrasing--whose rhythms seem, gloriously, transplanted directly out of an old-time radio show or a screwball comedy--never take off, content to throw out funny one-liners at a breakneck pace.

But the best stories in this collection show Allen in peak form. "This Nib For Hire", in which Serious Artist Flanders Mealworm is hired to write a novelization of a Three Stooges movie, ends in a truly stunning existential sequence between Moe, Curly, and Larry and is altogether as good a set-up as anything Allen's written since "The Whore of Mensa."

Some of "Mere Anarchy"'s parts are better than others, but the book itself is the funniest that will come out this year. Believe me, it has no competition from the "Three Stooges" novelization.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stale Bread, January 23, 2008
By 
Megapoint (Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
A collection of 'humorous' essays, most of which appear to have been first published in The New Yorker magazine.

The same serial characters appear variously in different stories (Max Endorphine, E. Coli Biggs, Camp Melanoma, Reg Millipede), most if not all suggested by bizzare newsclippings of the 'muffin-choker' type, some of which preface the chapters. But with the exception of a few divinely inspired belly-laughs, the jokes grow stale very quickly, and it was probabably more fun to read these as they originally appeared -- at random intervals. It's a shame to see Woody Allen grow formulaic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Esoteric at times, but side-splitting nonetheless, September 24, 2010
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Paperback)
Woody Allen's genius shines as expected in this slim little volume. My only criticism is that at times the depth of his forays into the movie industry makes a few of his essays, including "Falling Moguls," difficult to understand, much less find appealing. Much of that difficulty comes from allusions to obscure celebrities and places. His command over contemporary and classical English boggles the mind, too!

Mere Anarchy is an absolute gas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive and funny., June 5, 2010
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Paperback)
This is pretty much what you'd expect from Woody Allen: eighteen amusing fictional essays -- I don't know what else to call them except maybe "pieces" -- mostly parodies, mostly from The New Yorker. If you've read any of his earlier books, like "Without Feathers," you'll find the subjects and style familiar, if maybe not quite so fresh and adventurous.

Here's an example, the opening lines of "Thus Ate Zarathustra," a take-off on Nietzsche.

"Fat itself is a substance or essence of a substance or mode of that essence. The big problem is when it accumulates on your hips. Among the pre-Socratics, it was Zeno who held that weight was an illusion and that no matter how much a man ate he would always be only half as fat as the man who never does push-ups."

That excerpt is emblematic. First, it's utter nonsense. "A substance or essence of a substance or mode of that essence."

Second, it plunges abruptly from the intellectual to the most quotidian plane. The problem with "the mode of that essence" is that it accumulates on your hips and makes you fat.

Third, it's a bit challenging. You don't need to know Nietzsche but you need to have been exposed to a page or two of a certain kind of philosophy book in order to appreciate the absurdity of the statements. That first sentence, for instance, is a parody of Nietzsche but it could actually BE Nietzsche or some other philosopher like him. (Even the title, "Mere Anarchy", although it applies to Allen's reckless prose, is taken from Yeats' "The Second Coming.")

Finally, some of the humor, while real enough, is hidden behind the obvious craziness of the idea. Zeno argues that "no matter how much a man ate he would always be only half as fat as the man who never does push-ups." As it stands, it's more silly than funny. But its comic quotient goes up if we know that Zeno's paradox was that a man running a given distance would never reach the finish line because, no matter how far or fast he ran, it would always take him some time to run half the remaining distance. Allen's statement is not just a send-up of philosophy but, more specifically, of Zeno and his paradox.

We have to get used to big, rare, exotic, foreign, jargonistic words and names too, though we don't need to look them up. The name 'E. Coli Biggs' is more amusing if you've heard of E. coli bacteria. I couldn't define "corybantic" and probably Allen couldn't either without the help of a thesaurus. But if you go with the flow, as they say, the deliberate pomposity itself is kind of amusing. And, again, much of the humor lies in the juxtaposition of this highbrow lingo with the lowest-brow interpretations of human nature. As other humorists have observed, "hockey puck" is a funny term. So is "opthalmologist," although "optometrist" is not funny. It's the same effect that W. C. Fields so often aimed for. "My dear, what symmetrical digits!"

Allen's comic inventions are his own but his style is borrowed from the late New Yorker writer of the 1930s and 40s, S. J. Perelman, with whom Allen shares several tastes, including contempt for Los Angeles. Here's an example from Perelman. It could almost as easily have been Allen:

"Does anyone here mind if I make a prediction? I haven't made a prediction since the opening night of 'The Women', when I rose at the end of the third act and announced to my escort, a Miss Chicken-Licken, 'The public will never take this to its bosom.' Since the public has practically worn its bosom to a nubbin niggling up to 'The Women', I feel that my predictions may be a straw to show the direction the wind is blowing away from. I may very well open up a cave and do business as a sort of Cumaean Sibyl in reverse."

Two nebbishes, only Woody Allen really means it.

Aside from the self debasement, there are other similarities in the pieces themselves. If Allen writes a piece on his and his wife's renovating a Manhattan apartment, Perelman had a cabin in Bucks County to contend with. If Allen sometimes adopts the persona of a detective out of films noir ('This Nib For Hire'), Perelman often masked himself as a private investigator from the pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s ('Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer'). I didn't find the similarities at all disturbing. Great minds run in the same channels, especially if they've been raised in New York and are Jewish.

If there's a problem with Allen's latest book, and there is, it's that the entries are all a little too repetitious in style. The comic tactics are usually effective but the overall strategy hardly ever changes. And, of course, as in any real world, some of the jokes are better than others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SJ Perelman is Alive and ... Well?, September 12, 2008
This review is from: Mere Anarchy (Hardcover)
SJ Perelman wrote for the Marx Brothers in the 1930's and won a screenplay Oscar for "Around the World in 80 Days" in '56. But he is best remembered for his numerous articles published in the New Yorker Magazine. Perelman would spot a quirky newspaper story or magazine article and write a story or short playlet about it. Using alter egos such as JS Peebelman and JP Pringleman, Perelman would portray himself as a hapless every man frustrated by the aburdities of life. Another feature of his work was a vocabulary that could send even the most well-read scrambling for the Oxford Dictionary. In the first few stories in "Mere Anarchy", Woody Allen (remember him?) seeks to connect with his inner Perel-man borrowing SJ's style right down to the news blurbs and mind-boggling vocabulary. Interestingly, the Perelman clones are not as amusing as the later stories in "Mere Anarchy" where Allen writes with a style more reminiscient of "Getting Even" and "Without Feathers". When Allen knocks off the knock offs and sticks with his own writing style, he's funnier. As for the Master? Check out: "The Most of SJ Perelman" and "The Best of SJ Perelman".
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Mere Anarchy
Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen (Paperback - October 14, 2008)
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