After walking around Union Square one hypothermic afternoon, I found myself seeking shelter in the nearest store which just so happened to be Strand- the real life Beauty and the Beast library but not as grandiose and not free- even though most books are close to it. Although the weather outside was frightful, I found myself gravitating towards the dollar books outdoors because 1) They cost less than a water bottle and 2) They cost less than a water bottle- therefore deeming them to be more vital to our lives than water itself- which is pretty vital. While browsing I came upon an old, antiquated book called “Side Effects” by Woody Allen, which for some reason tickled my fancy almost instantaneously. The book was published back in 1975 when Woody Allen was at the prime of his radical, spearheading career. The rustic stains on the pages and the smell of coffee that was emitted from the book did not necessarily draw me in, but they didn’t push me away either. It was kind of like a compromise- I got an incredibly hilarious book, however it looked like it had been hibernating under the belly fold of a homeless person from Brooklyn for a millenium or so.
Woody Allen, also known as Allan Stewart Konigsberg, was born on December 1st, 1935, gracing our planet with his very birth. He was said to have always been the introspective, comedic type. Who knows, maybe he cracked a joke while remaining pensive when he was being birthed. I’d like to imagine it would have been something along the lines of “ ‘What can one say of confinement? Only the body may be circumscribed. My mind roams freely, unfettered by the four walls (the uterus in this case) and therefore in truth I ask, does confinement exist’….oh, um I’d much prefer you to not touch me there, please and thank you.” Woody Allen is a playwright, an actor, a writer, a comedian, a genius, a musician, the embodiment of all things perfect, a human (arguably, although that argument would not go very far unless of course you or the person you were arguing with was a member of the Church of Scientology) and a senior citizen, which goes to show that the old folks have still got it. His humor is effervescent and his logic stays within a certain realm of intellectuality. While reading his books, the reader actually learns something related to education, psychology and even respectable comedy. “Side Effects” is full of short stories that are completely brilliant and relatable. One story in particular called “My Apology” in which Allen describes one of his reoccurring dreams in which he is Socrates, relates almost directly to what some students study and learn in the Theory of Knowledge class. The “Cave” allegory, written by Plato is explained thoroughly in this story and is much easier to understand because of the many other references that modern day readers are fairly familiar with.
Some of the stories in this book relate to him directly, while others are products of his prodigious imagination (can we just note how many different adjectives I’ve used to essentially state that Woody Allen is flawless? Make a game out of it if you want). In every story that he writes, he incorporates a joke every other sentence- although sometimes you need to be familiar with certain subjects or ideas to fully understand the joke in all of its winsomeness. It’s kind of like Easter where you try to find the chocolate eggs (or actual eggs if your parents don’t love you as much) but you get knowledge instead of diabetes and rotten teeth.
All of his stories are sure to leave you either questioning your adequacy as both a human being and a writer or leave you stop, drop and rolling on the floor, potentially giving you carpet burn, unless you have wooden floors- in that case you’d get splinters.Side effects from reading this book include: Loss of oxygen, Annoying bantering that may seem funny to you but really is not because you cannot be Woody Allen, Intense “Beetleguise” like bags under you eyes, Depression, nausea, backache, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea.