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Artist: John  Baxter
Title: Woody Allen / A Biography
Woody Allen / A Biography

Format: Hardback Biography

Grade (Outer/Inner): Near Mint

Label: Carroll & Graf

Given the maelstrom of Allen's recent life, this engaging new biography is welcome, even if not definitive. Baxter (The Hollywood Exiles) follows Allen's tangled amours and artistic discoveries from his childhood in Brooklyn through his stint as a 1950s comedy writer and onward, exhaustively detailing the making of movie after movie, from What's New, Pussycat? to Deconstructing Harry. Fair-minded but harsher than Eric Lax was in Woody Allen (1991), Baxter has done yeoman work in canvassing the published record (he lacked Lax's access to Allen and his peers). While Baxter unearths eerie tidbits about Allen's relations with two teenage girls, his psychologizing often rests on others' judgments, such as film theorist Maurice Yacowar's views on sex and death, and Allen's ex-partner Mia Farrow's take on the gap between nebbish persona and hard-nosed auteur. He considers Allen's affair with Farrow's adoptive daughter Soon-Yi more a lapse of taste than an indictable offense. Cinephiles will particularly enjoy Baxter's discussions of Allen's influences: he finds an early debt to Jules Feiffer, hears echoes of Fellini in Annie Hall and describes the brief involvement in Stardust Memories of French student radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit. (As a critic, Baxter likes the comedies more than the dramas.) Allen finds real happiness, Baxter concludes, not in his messy private life but in his work. Though the reader might wish for a broader attempt to sum up Allen's prodigious output and place in American culture, this book remains the most detailed look at an American New York original... Hardback with dust jacket (price clipped), 1st edition, 492 pages, 1999...