It's 40 years since Woody Allen's Without Feathers was published, a collection of essays, spoof memoirs and genre pastiches that spent four months on the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and also topped the Esquire Funniest Books Ever
Allen was already a high-profile comedian and director on its release, firmly in the midst of his creative peak with Sleeper and Love And Death freshly completed and Annie Hall and Manhattan just around the corner.
The title comes from Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope Is The Thing With Feathers". In Woody's world, hope is replaced by a typically neurotic sense of ennui and despair at the futility of it all.
It's a gag-fest from the opening page, showcasing a comic style that basically involves combining profound openings with super-trivial payoffs. And they're as good today as they always were. Here are 11 of the best:
1 | "Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage."
2 | "Melnick says the soul is immortal and lives on after the body drops away, but if my soul exists without my body I am convinced all my clothes will be loose-fitting."
3 | "There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from mid-town and how late is it open?"
4 | "And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, 'I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on.'"
5 | "Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable, with the possible exception of a moose singing 'Embraceable You' in spats."
6 | "Is it better to be the lover or the loved one? Neither if you have cholseterol over 600."
7 | "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."
8 | "He had been mistaken several times for Robert Redford, but on each occasion it had been by a blind person."
9 | "He should have suspected something when his best friend and Harriet took a house together in Maine for three years without telling him where they were."
10 | "He had been a precocious child, an intellectual. At 12, he had translated the poems of T.S.Eliot into English, after some vandals had broken into the library and translated them into French."
11 | "Should I marry W.? Not if she won't tell me the other letters in her name."