Some employees at Hachette, the original publisher of his terrible book, had an early inkling that it was a giant piece of belly button lint: This is why, earlier this month, they scheduled a mass walkout in protest of its publication. The top brass listened and pulled the plug. And then Allen went to a different imprint, Arcade, and Arcade said, “Yes, give us the lint.”
Thusly, beginning Monday night, readers around the country who could no longer go to their covid-closed bookstores could instead go to their Kindles, press “download now,” and then say, “My God! For 3½ hours, I forgot we were in the middle of a global pandemic!”
Existential panic will be overshadowed by bafflement.
Is there any chance you’d like this preposterous memoir?
The original controversy over the book’s publication had to do with Dylan Farrow’s longstanding accusation that Allen, her adoptive father, had molested her in 1992. “We stand in solidarity with [Dylan Farrow] and survivors of sexual assault,” read the out-of-office messages of Hachette employees participating in the walkout. The allegations were investigated at the time; Allen has denied them, and he was never charged.
Fortunately, you do not need to reinvestigate these charges to have feelings about this book: Both guilty and innocent people can be boring, vindictive and self-indulgent.
You need only ask yourself: Do you like 400-page books in which wealthy 84-year-old Oscar-winning directors, who successfully navigated New York and Hollywood for half a century with unlimited creative control, who shaped mass pop culture into their own worldview, now portray themselves as innocent naifs who just can’t catch a break?
Are you really into a total lack of self-awareness, blended with tossing out wild accusations about other people’s private medical procedures, with a soupcon of Allen explaining that he “didn’t use African-Americans in [his] movies” because it doesn’t feel “dramatically correct,” but it’s fine because he does “gravitate to naming kids after my African-American heroes”?
If you want more details, the wildest bits are easily Googleable. Within moments of the book’s release, some websites started printing lists of all the weirdest stuff. I could not bring myself to do that here without giving Ronan Farrow a chance to comment first, though, and the thought of asking him some of these questions made me want to flush myself down a toilet.
Anyway, I promise you: This book’s value is not in the salacious details, which will make you deeply sad for every member of the Allen/Farrow/Previn constellation.
This book’s value is in knowing that even when the planet is hurtling toward global medical disaster, life still goes on, because there will still be a man like Woody Allen who takes a look around this feverish globe and says: Right now, today, is the time to publish my memoir, titled “Apropos of Nothing,” recounting the story of how I once charmingly invited a teenage Mariel Hemingway to go to Paris with me, and also I could barely figure out how to work the camera I used to take those famous nude photos of Soon-Yi.
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.