“If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that He’s evil. I think that the worst you can say about Him is that, basically, He’s an underachiever.”

Not a line from LAMENT but instead from a kind of precursor–Woody Allen’s 1975 movie “Love and Death.”

The man, the myth, the end of the movie

Whenever I set about to interrogate my privileged childhood, what comes to mind is the extraordinary access my parents gave me and my sister to the best of the culture around us. My family didn’t have second cars or second homes (or even one home, since we lived in church rectories); we never had the newest shiny things. But we had books. Many books–novels of all kinds, poetry, plays, biography, beautifully illustrated art books from museums; and recordings of classical music and opera and Broadway shows and jazz and folk music; and framed art on the walls; and we went to the movies, a lot. In 1972, my parents took us along to see Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in “Play it Again Sam” and I became a fan of both, for life.

Although it was filmed in Hungary and France, “Love and Death,” which I saw in high school at Hanover Mall, Hanover, Massachusetts, brought me to Russia and the Russians. And I never left. “I got screwed.” It situated me–defined me, really. And how much of my education as a reader since then has, for a sideline, consisted in filling in the blanks between references, from Dostoevsky to Gogol to Chekhov to Tolstoy, “getting” one after another and putting them back together in delightful strings. Not to mention the lifts from old gags, the Marx Brothers routines. “No, YOU must be Don Francisco’s sister.” It’s inexhaustible.

Here are many photos, facts, and trailers from a good fan site. My books today are full of Russians, full too of comedy, high and low, Woody Allen-style. And I invite all loyal readers who care to, to join me in saying, Thank you, Woody Allen.

The master