Mere Anarchy – An Open Thesaurus Book
“To a man standing on the shore, time passes quicker than to a man on a boat — especially if the man on the boat is with his wife.”
Among most people I know, I’m the one who is prone to bouts of verbosity. Occasionally, I can concoct a series of words that are meant to create a feeling of superiority through the synchronicity of their five-dollar wordiness, but my attempts usually come out clunky.
Woody Allen writes the kind of prose that toes the line between genius and hackney. You can usually tell how the story is going to go by how well you relate to the name of the character. Sometimes the character name just fits, like when a character named “Endorphine” is talking about the cult he’s joined to gain superpowers. I don’t think any of the stories are particularly flawed on their own, but they do get repetitive. Allen visits the well of down on their luck show business persons frequently, and many of the characters throughout the story feel like they are the same one.
The biggest barrier against the book is the language. This was my first foray into audiobooks, and having Allen read the stories is probably the only thing which kept from hating the worst of the stories outright. There are some lines in the story when you just want to yell at Allen to use a different word. Many of these stories appeared first in The New Yorker, and these stories do well to reflect my image of what kind of items would appear in the New Yorker. I’m not sure if there’s a cultural gap, well, I’m sure there’s a cultural gap between a mid twenty something WASP for Kentucky and Woody Allen, but I don’t know if it is any wider than that.
I think that the prose it at its worst when it is telling stories set as knock off pulp fictions, noires in a parody of Phillip Marlowe. It is at its best when it is exercising the language (contradictory review, I know) a story about the world being explained through physics was delightful. Most of the show business stories don’t really strike much of a chord with me, but a stories that consists of the epistolary conversation between the owner of a film camp and the father of a boy who completed a film at the camp was the clear highlight. The two trade vitriolic barbs back and forth while arguing where credit for the film ultimately should go.
As much as I may have badmouthed the style, I would say that there are times when the lines jump off the page was absolute joy, when you can feel the same satisfaction from reading the words as the writer must have felt from putting them down.
So Book 1 is down. I guess I should be happy I’m caught up on A Song of Ice and Fire.