Despite being a Woody Allen fan in theory, I’ve only ever seen Matchpoint (though, in fairness, Deconstructing Harry is in my Netflix queue) and have never read any of his books. Which, I realized as I read through Mere Anarchy, is a crying shame, because Allen not only has a wit as dry as the Gobi, but has a gift for wordplay that leaves linguaphiles moist.
Much is juxtaposition: all of the short vignettes in Mere Anarchy share a sort of common narrative voice, namely that of an acerbic New York Jew (gee, really?). But Allen takes his little stories to such comic heights: one of my favorite pieces, for instance, is about an apocryphal tome called Friedrich Nietzsche’s Diet Book, with lines like “The point here is that in life, one is entitled to a side dish of either coleslaw or potato salad, and the choice must be made in terror, with the knowledge that not only is our time on earth limited but most kitchens close at ten.”
How can you not laugh at that?
The only real problem with Mere Anarchy is its dearth of pages. At a mere 160 pages, it’s like an appetizer, but perhaps that’s a good thing: I want to read more, and probably rent more of the man’s movies, as well. It’s either a great marketing ploy, or Allen just felt like having fun. In the end, that’s what this book is: Allen telling us jokes in the guise of short essays or stories.
I recommend this to anybody; literally, anybody, unless perhaps you’re an anti-Semite or you have no sense of humor. In which case you’re a goy anyway.