Thursday, August 07, 2008

Make that a Doppel

People, at least famous people, come in doubles. Meg Ryan and Melanie Griffith. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Jude Law and Ryan Philippe. And that's just movie stars. (And, thanks to Google, I see I'm not the first person to have thought of this. Oh well.) Another pair I believe are in fact just one person are Woody Allen and Philip Roth. Aside from the difference in medium, how is the one different from the other? Sure, they don't look alike, but reading Roth I always picture the character of Roth alter ego as looking and acting a bit Allen-esque. The brilliant Jewish male, son of not-quite-assimilated parents, feels a bit apart from society, but not too much so to get whichever shiksa he wants. Not only are the two from the same moment in American-Jewish history, but their approach to this moment is identical. The Roth-Allen male has found many imitators--George Costanza, the Ben Stiller character in "Meet the Parents," Adam Goldberg in "Two Days in Paris"--but it doesn't seem as though Roth imitated Allen or vice versa. They are in fact one entity.

Which is why I was mystified by the New Yorker's choice to juxtapose a review of a Woody Allen movie with one of a Roth book that's been turned into a movie. You can't have a Roth-Allen ticket, it would be imbalanced! Not because they're both (or both symbolize) neurotic Jews of a certain age, but because they are one and the same being. Whoever writes those NYT obits years ahead of time is preparing just one for the both of them.

6 comments:

Matt said...

Of course, Philip Roth (or at least the narrator of "Operation Shylock") seems to disagree:

"i assure you that arafat can differentiate between woody allen and philip roth."

Paul Gowder said...

Nooo! If Woody Allen and Phillip Roth are the same person, they are the same only in the nasty deconstructionist binary-opposition-babble kind of way that Good and Evil (respectively) depend on each other, express and delineate each other.

Woody Allen is a wonderous source of joy, wisdom, truth, insight, and The Funny.

Phillip Roth is a guy whose great book, that all educated people have to have read, features, as its primary moment of character develop and disclosure, some kid ba-da-ba-doinking a LIVER.

Withywindle said...

Roth has moments of real (moral self-)critique of American Jewry; Allen uses ethnicity as schtick. Yeah, yeah, tragedy vs. comedy and all that, but there's a real difference of approach.

Phoebe said...

Matt: Count that as one more non-Arafat-like thing about me. But don't both Operation Shylock and Zelig only help the case for the Roth-Allen entity, since both sides of it are so malleable?

Paul: There's some truth to that. It could be that Allen's the more brilliant, but because Roth's thing is books, and we think book=intellectual (even if that book includes excitement over a liver) we've come to revere Roth more than is fair. But if we take into account the seriousness of each medium (mainstream movies versus mainstream but 'smart' novels) and factor in the seriousness of the artists, it sort of evens out. I maintain they're just one man.

Withywindle: Watch Zelig. It's more moral self-critique of American Jewry than I knew what to do with.

Miss Self-Important said...

To finish out this matrix, I agree that Roth and Allen are the same person, but they're both evil to a degree for which no amount of knowing self-criticism can fully compensate. Though I do appreciate the humor of their knowing self-criticism.

Anonymous said...

Withywindle here:

You know, I had completely forgotten about Zelig? Which seems strangely appropriate. OK, point taken.