Thursday, February 12, 2009

Side Effects

Most people have either seen or heard about Woody Allen’s films. Woody Allen’s output of movies has been quite prolific over the years and has had peaks and valleys in terms of its quality. I find it interesting however that although he hardly pays compared to the going Hollywood rate for successful actors, those same actors typically want to star in his movies and will eagerly do so if asked. In short, his movies generate demand from both sides of the production. Both the cast of players and audience want to be involved.

Less people know that the same Woody Allen had produced several volumes of short stories. Side Effects is one of these volumes. The stories in this volume are whimsical and engaging, bordering on the surreal. They are also outrageously funny. Not limited by budget or visual possibilities on a screen, Allen uses his fertile imagination to take you through a variety of situations and plots, each one more outlandish than its predecessor. My favourite tale is The Kugelmass Episode. In it our protagonist learns of a magician who, through certain machinations and for a small fee, can transport people into the pages of any novel they wish. Kugelmass elects Madame Bovary and is soon face to face with Emma Bovary herself. Things start out wonderfully, but quickly go downhill from there.

I was once reading stories from this book to a friend out loud by a pool. By the time I had finished two of the stories and paused to look up, a crowd had pulled up their lounge chairs and gathered to listen. There is something about his absurdist humour which captivates, so if you are not bothered by the occasional obscure erudite reference and can suspend some disbelief, you will definitely enjoy this slim paperback.

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