March 27, 2020
Woody Allen’s memoir finally gets published to, largely, silence…
by Nikki Griffiths
As if coping with the ravages of a global pandemic hasn’t made life unpleasant enough, now we’ve all got to talk about Woody Allen. Again.
Truer words could not have been said by USA Today. So why are we giving “I-deny-sexually-molesting-my-daughter” Allen the time of day again? Because, unfortunately, a new publisher has.
Back in May 2019 we wrote about Allen trying to flog his memoir to publishing houses, with little success. It was, however, finally signed up by Grand Central, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group, due to be published in April 2020.
But when Hachette announced the publication earlier this month, staff did not take kindly to it and dozens in the New York office staged a walkout in protest. Crumbling under the pressure and media attention, Hachette cancelled the release less than a week later, pulping copies. An employee told the Guardian at the time:
“Everybody has a right to respond to allegations against them but do we have to pay them God knows how much to do that? Everybody should take responsibility for their actions.”
When the book was dropped, many of us took a collective sigh of relief. But—plot twist! Arcade Publishing, an imprint of the independent publisher Skyhorse, scurried in and hauled the carcass away, ready to resurrect it. In a statement, as reported by NPR, Arcade editor Jeannette Seaver said:
“We as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected writer and filmmaker, rather than bow to the politically correct pressures of the modern world. While we respect Hachette’s decision to choose not to publish Woody Allen’s book, we choose not to take sides but rather, firmly believe in upholding the right to Freedom of Speech.”
And so, on its last legs, Apropos of Nothing was finally published with little warning this Monday, March 23, in hardback, just over two weeks after it was dropped by Hachette, promising “a hugely entertaining, deeply honest, rich and brilliant self-portrait of a celebrated artist who is ranked among the greatest filmmakers of our time.”
Currently it seems only a large print edition is available, and only from limited retailers—it is not available to purchase in hardback on Amazon right now, for example. And perhaps as a result, or maybe just down to common decency, the publicity uptake has been tiny. USA Today went with a scathing review, summarising it as “devoid of introspection, feeling and accountability.”
Apropos of Nothing is 400 pages of feeling stuck sitting next to the world’s most tiresome dinner party guest, a long-winded old man rhapsodizing over his many sexual conquests, recounting in exhaustive detail every fancy meal he has ever eaten and name-dropping all the celebrities he has ever rubbed elbows with. There are some insights into his creative process, but none of them are deep—it’s largely reminisced hobnobbing and dalliances… The way he talks about women is frequently repellent… The rest is whinging self-pity.
National Review (a leading conservative magazine apparently, I had to look them up) went polar opposite, calling it:
an absolute delight, hilarious and endearing and glistening with stardust. He’s had a ridiculously blessed life and he’s grateful for almost all of it. The things he’s not so grateful for don’t get him down.
And The Telegraph, “Boris Johnson’s” right-wing rag, unsurprisingly enjoyed the apparently “guilt-inducingly fun memoir.” LOL, isn’t guilt fun?
Reading into the praise, it is almost as though rich, white men stick together to preserve their own self-interests. That’s pretty much all there is out there for for us, and Allen to chew over. Choose which point of view you wish to side with. You know which one is right.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.