It has been a year since a public debate referenced a piece of writing (remember Christopher Dorner and his manifesto?) and now we have two letters worthy of comment, one from a woman named Dylan Farrow, and one from her father-in-name-only, the filmmaker Woody Allen.
Dylan is the better letter writer. She comes out knifing with a great lead paragraph. The rest of her complaint slows in comparison, but Dylan writes better than any twentysomething I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot since the Internet took over the national news racket. Dylan’s opening paragraph puts all that edgy quasi-chick-lit (see Alice Sebold, Emma Donoghue, Edward St. Aubyn, etc.) to shame:
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
Later on in her piece I picked up a new word:
But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
Love that gaslight and will use it. And the closing paragraph does a nice call back to the opening line. Dylan’s prose is tinted but not overwhelmed by emotion. I’d buy a Dylan Farrow novel.
In contrast, Woody’s lead limps:
Twenty-one years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn’t give it a second thought. We were involved in a terribly acrimonious breakup, with great enmity between us and a custody battle slowly gathering energy. The self-serving transparency of her malevolence seemed so obvious I didn’t even hire a lawyer to defend myself. It was my show business attorney who told me she was bringing the accusation to the police and I would need a criminal lawyer.
It doesn’t get much better. Woody attempts to assuage numerous complaints against him, some vague and some direct. His letter is twice as long as Dylan’s letter, and ten times as watery.
There are many asides in his letter, including tributaries on Dory Previn (a pretty good singer) and Frank Sinatra’s sperm. His best attack–Dylan’s mother permitted some movie clips to be used in a Woody tribute–is buried in a latter, weak paragraph.
I expected more from the man who wrote the screenplay to Deconstructing Harry, a film that gave me a favorite insult, “meshugenah cunt.”