Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Didion vs. Allen

NMC links to something I'd not seen -- Joan Didion's 1979 critique of Woody Allen. Great stuff, says I, as someone who likes Allen but loves Didion.
This notion of oneself as a kind of continuing career - something to work at, work on, “make an effort” for and subject to an hour a day of emotional Nautilus training, all in the interests not of attaining grace but of improving one’s “relationships” - is fairly recent in the world, at least in the world not inhabited entirely by adolescents. In fact the paradigm for the action in these recent Woody Allen movies is high school. The characters in Manhattan and Annie Hall and Interiors are, with one exception, presented as adults, as sentient men and women in the most productive years of their lives, but their concerns and conversations are those of clever children, “class brains,” acting out a yearbook fantasy of adult life.
The bitterness of a Californian come to NYC and finding everyone turning into goddamn Californians.

... Her response to a professor who writes to the NYRB defending Allen is another classic I hadn't seen, though I have wanted to file reply briefs with pretty much the same content.

... Google Books provides another example of Didion's aptitude for the terse rejoinder. Alfred Kazin did not like what Didion said about him in reviewing Cheever's Falconer:
Kazin protests remarks that Didion made about him . . . . More specifically, he fulminates at length about Didion's charge that he insufficiently appreciates Cheever and other Protestant writers. He even climaxes his five-paragraph tirade by proclaiming that one of Didion's statements about him "is worse than outrageous - it is stupid."
Didion's response, in full: "Oh, come off it, Alfred."

I wish she had reviewed Harry Frankfurt's little book On Bullshit, which could be the subtitle of much of her nonfiction.

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