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My Dinner with Andre (Wallace Shawn) Paperback – January 7, 1994


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My Dinner with Andre (Wallace Shawn) + Conference of the Birds: The Story of Peter Brook in Africa (Theatre Arts (Routledge Paperback)) + Living Theatre: A History of Theatre
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Product Details

  • Series: Wallace Shawn
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Evergreen Ed edition (January 7, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130631
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Full of what you might call conversation starters: tricky propositions about morality... politics, privilege, runaway nationalist fantasies, collective guilt, and art as a force for change (or not)... It's a treat to hear him speak his curious mind."--O The Oprah Magazine

"Wallace Shawn's essays are both powerful and riveting. How rare to encounter someone willing to question the assumptions of class and the disparity of wealth that grows wider every year in this country. To have such a gentle and incisive soul willing to say what others may be afraid to is considerably refreshing."--Michael Moore

"Wallace Shawn's career as a playwright has been uncompromisingly devoted to proving that theater is an ideal medium for exploring difficult matters of great consequence. The qualities that make his dramatic work so challenging, sensual, mind-and-soul expanding, so indispensible, are equally in evidence in the marvelous political and theatrical essays collected here."--Tony Kushner

"Wallace Shawn writes in a style which is deceptively simple, profoundly thoughtful, fiercely honest. His vocabulary is pungent, his wit delightful, his ideas provocative."--Howard Zinn

WITH A BOLD and broad-ranging set of essays, Wallace Shawn takes us on a revelatory journey through high art, war, culture, politics, and privilege. With his distinctive humor and insight, Shawn invites us to look at the world with new eyes, the better to understand and change it.

WALLACE SHAWN is an Obie Award-winning playwright and a noted stage and screen actor. His plays The Designated Mourner and The Fever have recently been produced as films, and his translation of Threepenny Opera was recently performed on Broadway. He is co-author of My Dinner with Andre and the author of The Fever and Aunt Dan and Lemon, among other works. His friends call him Wally.

"I've written plays and a few screenplays, in each one of which a person who isn't me speaks, and then another person who isn't me replies, and then a third one enters or the first one speaks again, and so it goes until the end of the piece. I've even worked as a professional actor, speaking out loud as if I were someone not myself.

Every once in a while, though, I like to take a break from fantasy land, and I go off to the place called Reality for a brief vacation. It's happened a dozen or so times in the course of my life. I've looked at the world from my own point of view, and I've written these essays. I've written essays about reality, the world, and I've even written a few essays about the dream-world of 'art' in which I normally dwell. In a bold mood I've brooded once or twice on the question, Where do the dreams go, and what do they do, in the world of the real?"--From Essays by Wallace Shawn

You can preview the book at Harper's, where an excerpt, "Is Sex Interesting?," of Essays has been published.

Wallace Shawn will be available for select interviews with national media September-October. To request an interview or review copy of Essays, please contact Sarah Macaraeg atsarah@haymarketbooks.org, 773-583-7884 (office), or 312-315-8476 (cell). Select Advance Reader's copies

Customer Reviews

Andre and Wallace discuss love, marriage, perception and reality, theology, and even the validity of their very statements.
M. Burns
By its very nature, as a two hour conversation, you can't absorb all of it the first time, so watch it's more worth buying than many movies.
Publius
I once read the thing that makes a movie great is when your done watching it, you'd like to meet the characters in the movie in real life.
Alex Udvary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

139 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Wolf on March 29, 2001
Format: DVD
My Dinner With Andre is a brilliant, difficult movie.
A lot of people are turned off by this film because it's mainly one extended scene of two unglamorous people talking about existence. But what a conversation, and what a scene! Andre Gregory's bizarre, surreal story and his catharsis about the nature of modern life that comes from it is powerful stuff, but the real punch comes from Wallace Shawn, our Everyman, and his reaction to it. It's a shame that so many can't watch more than 10 minutes of this movie, because it is ultimately Shawn, at the end, who speaks their thoughts.
MDWA demands your attention for two hours, which is no easy task, because there is no real narrative in the traditional sense. It also demands multiple viewings, because it is rich with subtle detail, and there's a lot to take in. Notice, for instance, the continual references to the Holocaust, culminating in Gregory's account of his friend's theory about the city-as-modern-concentration-camp. And as you watch these two actors play, ostensibly, themselves, you wonder how much of the film is true and how much is a carefully constructed narrative. It's a great mystery, one that I prefer unsolved.
Kudos also go to the director, the great Louis Malle, whose control is so precise that you almost forget you're watching a movie as opposed to two people just talking. It's a reminder of how the great directors are the ones who can do so much with so little. You'll never look at a blockbuster the same way again.
The reason I can't give this film 5 stars is that the video transfer is HORRIBLE. The color is often off, and the sound is mediocre at best. Hopefully someone will save and restore this gem of a film.
Do yourself a favor and SEE THIS MOVIE. You'll probably complain about doing it, but you'll feel immensely gratified afterward.
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114 of 121 people found the following review helpful By M. Burns on May 15, 2004
Format: DVD
I just finished this movie, and I feel like I need to simply get a few thoughts down before my head hits my pillow. I didn't know what to expect entering My Dinner With Andre - after all, it is a movie about two guys who have dinner in a restaurant and talk the whole time. But from the moment that the goofy-looking, awkward Wallace Shawn lumbers down a New York street and we hear his voice-over, I knew that something more was taking place in this movie. What it was, I had no idea.

There are no character names; there is no 'plot;' Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, both prominent actors/playwrights of New York, meet after not having seen each other for years and they shoot the breeze. I learned that it's not as extemporaneous as I originally had imagined - Shawn and Gregory got together, recorded hours of their conversations, and then compiled a script based on them. The 'restaurant' is actually a defunct hotel, the waiters and barkeepers all actors. But there's a transcendence to it all, as the men sit and chat (mostly the powerful, lively Andre Gregory doing the talking), food being brought out to them.

What heightens the power of the film is the setup that Wallace gives in the voice-over before their dinner: Andre, the man he meets, has been living a peculiar existence traveling all over the world, when he used to never want to leave his family. A friend of Wallace's saw Andre weeks before sobbing uncontrollably on the street because he was violently moved by a line in Bergman's Autumn Sonata. Like Wallace, we don't know what to expect in the very context of the dinner conversation.
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155 of 172 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: DVD
This is my favorite movie of all time. Period. You can sit inon the most interesting conversation ever and I've done it many times,every time finding myself thinking of different things, contemplating my own life and wondering about how crazy Andre actually is and how seriously to take his ideas about how human life came to an end a few decades ago, leaving us all robots in search of some twinge of real feeling. But the dvd is so bad I suspected it was a bootleg. When the camera switches from Andre to Wally the color completely changes. It's all grainy as if recorded on bad tape off a badly receiving tv. At one point a little white hair appears and vacillates on the lower screen for oh about 30 minutes. Are they kidding? There needs to be a new edition of this great movie, and those of us who bought this sham of a version should be allowed to trade it in. Here is a film critiquing the falseness of what our modern life has become: fine, but I don't need an object lesson costing me $20. Out of respect for the sublime Louis Malle, put out a new version!
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Publius on August 7, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Amazon may automatically link my review to the old DVD release of this movie, "My Dinner with Andre," in which case, this may still be confusing. Pay attention- I am referring in my remarks here to the new Criterion Collection DVD version, which has a photo of a knife and fork on a napkin, on a plate, on the cover.

When I checked, the first review which appeared on the Amazon page of this new criterion collection version is an old review from 10 years ago. It trashes the DVD release and calls for a new version. Well, it's this criterion collection version which, 10 years later, has arrived to correct the errors which the review talks about. I'm referring to the review here that is titled "But no stars for the DVD". So don't get confused-- this edition is new.

As for the movie itself, I'm taking the time to write these remarks because it's a great movie that is well worth watching and watching again. By its very nature, as a two hour conversation, you can't absorb all of it the first time, so watch it's more worth buying than many movies. In fact, it played a significant part in raising my interest to the post theatrical work of Jerzy Grotowski, who Andre discusses in the movie.
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