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Side Effects Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1986

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Before Woody Allen set his sights on becoming the next Ingmar Bergman, he made a fleeting (but largely successful) attempt at becoming the next S.J Perelman. Side Effects, his third and final collection of humor pieces, shows his efforts. These essays appeared in The New Yorker during the late 1970s, as he showed more and more discontent with his funnyman status. Fear not, humor fans--Allen's still funny. He is less manic, however, than in his positively goofy Getting Even/Without Feathers days, and this makes Side Effects a more nuanced read. Woody picks and chooses when to flash the laughs, as in an article discussing UFOs:
[I]n 1822 Goethe himself notes a strange celestial phenomenon. "En route home from the Leipzig Anxiety Festival," he wrote, "I was crossing a meadow, when I chanced to look up and saw several fiery red balls suddenly appear in the southern sky. They descended at a great rate of speed and began chasing me. I screamed that I was a genius and consequently could not run very fast, but my words were wasted. I became enraged and shouted imprecations at them, whereupon they flew away frightened. I related this story to Beethoven, not realizing he had already gone deaf, and he smiled and nodded and said, "Right."
Though not as explosively, mind-alteringly funny as his earlier books, Side Effects is still loaded with chuckles; the much-anthologized "Kugelmass Episode" is worth the price of the book. For fans of his films--or for anyone who wants a final glimpse of Woody in his first, best role as court jester, Side Effects is a must-have. --Michael Gerber

From the Inside Flap

A humor classic by one of the funniest writers today, SIDE EFFECTS is a treat for all those who know his work and those just discovering how gifted he is. Included here are such classics as REMEMBERING NEEDLEMAN, THE KUGELMASS EPISODE, a new sory called CONFESSIONS OF A BUGLAR, and more.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345343352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345343352
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. Orion Pozo on July 9, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Side Effects is a collection of short humorous essays written by Woody Allen 30 years ago. It is his third book and still very funny. Much of the humor is based in New York and Jewish cultural idioms with a sprinkling of mock intelligentsia - all with the neurotic, self-absorbed insecure point of view that he made famous.

The first piece, "Remembering Needleman," is a satirical take off on scholarly obituaries. Only Woody Allen would think of bringing marshmallows to a cremation and to donate the ashes to a university for research.

"The Condemned" takes a humorous look at Elie Weisel's Dawn where a man must decide whether to kill a truly evil person.

"By Destiny Denied" is 7 pages of notes for an 800 page novel that was never meant to be written.

"The UFO Menace" is Allen's take on the existence of UFOs.

"My Apology" puts Woody Allen in Socrates' place as he faces death by hemlock.

In "The Kugelmass Episode" the protagonist finds a magic way to cheat on his wife by going back in literature to have an affair with Emma Bovary.

In "My Speech to the Graduates" we find Allen's philosophy most succinctly spelled out: "We are a people who lack definite goals. We have never learned to love. We lack leaders and coherent programs. We have no spiritual center. We are adrift alone in the cosmos wreaking monstrous violence on one another out of frustration and pain. Fortunately, we have not lost our sense of proportion."

"The Diet" explores the insecurities often associated with working in corporate America. A person only identified as F. deals with his work problems by taking control of the only thing he can - his food intake.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I thought that this book was not as good as Without Feathers or Getting Even. Certain points are funny, even hilarious. However, there are largely unfunny passages such as "Retribution". However, there are a few good vignettes, most notably "Confessions of a Burglar" and "Nefarious Times We Live In". If you've already read his other books, this still has some laughs; if not, I recommend his two previous selections.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Allen's style hasn't been duplicated in thirty years. How could anyone attempt to copy him--his creativity has its own realm. Side Effects is a must for any home library. I've read it over and over, and every time I pick it up, I laugh just as hard as the time before. Just like good music, true comedy doesn't get worn out by repetitiveness. This book and SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld are my two favorite humor books. And I'm still waiting for a Steven Wright compilation, by the way.
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When Woody Allen is funny, he is irresistibly funny. His humor is quirky, imaginative, and alive. It's a testament to his genius that forty years after "Side Effects" was first published and after his style of humor has entered the public consciousness through his films there are some pieces in this collection that are still so fresh and vibrant.

That said, Woody Allen's humor is extremely self-absorbed, and his obsession with young pubescent women is down-right creepy (especially given what we know about his private life). I loved the first few essays, but soon enough reading Allen became like a chore.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Those coming to know Woody Allen from his legendary film work or infamous personal scandals will find uproarious laughter and glimpses of insight in "Side Effects." This is third in a collection of short stories and essays Allen wrote mostly for the New Yorker during his late 70s commercial/creative peak.
Those strictly seeking laughs from a master will find them in one-act playlets like "The Query" and "My Apology" and in vignettes like "Reminisces: Places and People." Each focusing on death, they underline Carol Burnett's observation "Comedy is tragedy plus time." (Alan Alda recited this line as a smarmy TV personality in Allen's 1990 "Crimes and Misdermeanors.") But Allen also unintentionally, tragicomically mixes asides and references to fallen icons like OJ Simpson, the World Trade Center (constant symbol of size here) and even Igor Stravinsky (an allegory for sophistication and complexity.)
Yet Allen maintains his unparalleled character detail and nuance even in this short format (Few stories are more than six pages and are easily readable at one sitting.) You come to care for the TV producer who consoles a friend and eyes a nurse in "The Shallowest Man." You feel a painful twinge at the father-son dialogue closing the otherwise nonsensical "The Diet." You also sense the balding, hairy Kugelmass' giddy joy as he romances Emma Bovary and changes literature in "Kugelmass Episode." (Few main male characters in Allen's stories here are as attractive as the women they pursue.
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