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Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... for being a thinking and aware person’: but he takes the precaution of sounding like a parody of Woody Allen sounding like someone who ...

Modern Discontent

Bernard Williams, 17 July 1980

The Culture of Narcissism 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 288 pp., £6.95, February 1980, 0 393 01177 1
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Nihilism and Culture 
by Johan Goudsblom.
Blackwell, 213 pp., £15, May 1980, 9780631195702
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... humour’. The total embodiment of modern narcissistic America is, Lasch suggests, Woody Allen. This account of a kind of character, with its psychoanalytical formulation, offers a good number of suggestions. But it really does little to sustain Lasch’s cultural critique. For this critique to be sustained, a link would be needed between ...

Tseeping

Christopher Tayler: Alain de Botton goes on a trip, 22 August 2002

The Art of Travel 
by Alain de Botton.
Hamish Hamilton, 261 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 241 14010 2
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... have trouble with his girlfriends, perhaps because they’re usually called things like ‘M’. (Woody Allen: ‘Should I marry W? Not if she won’t tell me the other letters in her name.’) His ideal woman would be ‘a reincarnation of Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna’ with ‘a dry sense of humour and spontaneity’, with whom he would like to lie in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Synecdoche, New York’, 11 June 2009

Synecdoche, New York 
directed by Charlie Kaufman.
April 2009
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... it’s just grim and lingering, allowing Cotard to wallow in his not very interesting angst, as if Woody Allen had visited us with one of his earnest moments. You have to wonder whether there is a virus that makes witty American moviemakers want to be Ingmar Bergman at least once in their lives. This is it for Kaufman: Wild Raspberries. But only some of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’, 17 December 2009

A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... shot dead from the shore by a man and his son out hunting Jews. You’ll recognise the homage to Woody Allen. The narrative of the film is structured around Larry’s quest for advice from three rabbis. The film’s second-best version of the reigning joke occurs in the last of these scenes when the rabbi’s stolid receptionist, after staring at Larry ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Django Unchained’, 24 January 2013

Django Unchained 
directed by Quentin Tarantino.
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... from their incorrect racial views, these men are idiots. The joke recalls many situations in early Woody Allen movies, Take the Money and Run, for example, where the bank teller can’t read the handwriting in the robber’s threatening note, and indeed looks back to the conversation John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson have in Pulp Fiction when a ...

Tucked in

Nicholas Spice, 24 February 1994

Fima 
by Amos Oz.
Chatto, 352 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 7011 4004 6
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... between them. The effect of all this is altogether too cosy and reminded me of a passage in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. Sandy (‘Woody Allen’) has hit on ‘a very remarkable idea for a new ending’ for his movie: Sandy: We’re, we’re on a train and there are, there are many sad people on ...

Antic Santa

James Francken: Nathan Englander, 28 October 1999

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges 
by Nathan Englander.
Faber, 205 pp., £9.99, May 1999, 0 571 19691 8
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... their souls’ and that this relief turns all the outward signs of observance into an illusion. Woody Allen makes fun of the false piety of the Hasidim in ‘Hasidic Tales’ in Getting Even: the man who ‘journeyed to Chelm in order to seek the advice’ of the sage finds out that ‘the rabbi is in over his head with gamblers, and he has also been ...

Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy, 20 March 2008

The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... by one into a room near the top of the Nacional, they offered the kind of Hollywood freeze-frame Woody Allen spoofed in Take the Money and Run: Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, the legendary mobster Lansky helped spring from an American prison long before he finished his 30-to-50-year sentence for running a prostitution racket; Vito Genovese, a famous ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander, 22 March 2012

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... Freudian terror of the stories ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’ and ‘The Track Meet’. Allen Fein, a married man with a shiksa wife, enters a Times Square peep show and buys several tokens; after seeing one beautiful woman, he is greeted by a phalanx of rabbis, his shrink, and then his mother, in stockings, garters and ‘a wad of Kleenex’ over ...

All in the Family

Sylvia Lawson, 3 December 1992

Letters to Sartre 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Quintin Hoare.
Radius, 531 pp., £20, December 1991, 0 09 174774 0
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Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvior, 1926-1939 
edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.
Hamish Hamilton, 448 pp., £20, November 1992, 9780241133361
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... since Hitchcock. In a weekend colour supplement, he and female friend gaze behind the title ‘Woody’s Miasma’: around the local release of Husbands and Wives the promoters are cashing in heavily. On the radio, another reviewer drones away about how he couldn’t watch the movie without thinking about it ... (It was his problem; I had no trouble ...

Patriotic Gore

Michael Wood, 19 May 1983

Duluth 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 434 83076 3
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Pink Triangle and Yellow Star and Other Essays 1976-1982 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 278 pp., £10, July 1982, 0 434 83075 5
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... you may, Earl, honey. I am Lady Darlene.’ There are even touches of Gracie (or is it Woody?) Allen:   ‘Was your father weak, passive, absent from home a lot?’   ‘You mean before he died?’ There is also a glum, constant sense of history being erased by show business, or just business. Chloris ...

As a returning lord

John Lanchester, 7 May 1987

Einstein’s Monsters 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 127 pp., £5.95, April 1987, 0 224 02435 3
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... dying of radiation sickness along with everybody else.’ On a first reading, the story is a Woody Allen sketch (‘If I thought the Permian age was the pits it was only because I hadn’t yet lived through the Triassic’) with a darker-than-usual ending. With further readings, however, the story takes on a more sustainedly compassionate timbre and ...

According to A.N. Wilson

Patricia Beer, 3 December 1992

Jesus 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 269 pp., £15, September 1992, 1 85619 114 1
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... declared “What have you against Rabbi Eliezer, for his teaching is correct?” ’ This is sheer Woody Allen: the McLuhan scene in Annie Hall. But Vermes goes on to explain ‘that this intervention was ruled out of order because in the Bible it is written that decisions are to be reached by majority vote.’ In the context of the present debate I ...

Audrey’s Eye

Anthony Quinn, 21 February 1991

Leaving Brooklyn 
by Lynne Sharon Schwartz.
Minerva, 146 pp., £4.99, December 1990, 0 7493 9072 7
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Surrogate City 
by Hugo Hamilton.
Faber, 197 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14432 2
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... of European Jews in flight from the Holocaust. It is the closely bonded immigrant milieu that Woody Allen affectionately revisited in Radio Days; Bernard Malamud set a number of early stories there. Audrey is also leaving behind a six-year-old’s memories of war: the departure of sweetheart Bobby, rationing, the wire on the milk bottles which her ...

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