Mini-review: Apropos Of Nothing

I love reading books. That’s why this site features entries from my video book club, essay-based book club, as well as reviews of individual books. Sometimes, though, I can’t get around to a full fledged review, or the book requires only a few paragraphs of commentary. In those cases, I used to publish mini-reviews on Amazon. But since I’ve started boycotting the company (because of their awful labor practices, destructive near-monopoly, and willful avoidance of taxes), I decided to move this practice to my blog. So here we go with the latest entry.

Yes, yes, I know, why read Woody Allen’s memoir? Isn’t he a perverted child molester and rapist? There are, I think, at least two reasons. First of all, regardless of his personal life, he remains one of the most important movie makers and cultural icons of the latter part of the 20th century. Second, if you actually paid attention — as I did — to the controversy from the beginning you will have to come to the conclusion that Allen is innocent, or at the very least not proven guilty.

He does, inevitably, address the issue in Apropos of Nothing, where he points out that he has been cleared of charges by two different inquiries, and that the investigators have actually concluded that Mia Farrow coached her daughter to lie since she was a small child. But what about the fact that he married his much younger adopted daughter, Soon-Yi? She is indeed much younger, but was never his adopted daughter, he and Farrow were never married, and Farrow abused Soon-Yi, physically and psychologically. Besides, the couple has now been married for a long time, which is more than a lot of other celebrities can boast.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way (and of course you are entitled to your opinion about it), the rest of the book is a delight for anyone who appreciated Woody’s movies over so many decades. You won’t get tips about movie making, as Allen claims not to be that good of a director (he thinks of himself as a writer), and acknowledges a lot of luck in his life. But you’ll get endless funny or insightful anecdotes about most of his productions, as well as so many other aspects of his astounding career.

Allen has always been skeptical of awards and reputation, and does not believe in an afterlife. It is fitting, then, that these are his parting words in the memoir: “And really, no interest in a legacy? I’ve been quoted before on this, and I’ll leave it this way: Rather than live on in the hearts and mind of the public, I prefer to live on in my apartment.”

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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