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Story Review: The Whore of Mensa by Woody Allen

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Satire is a literary work in which human foolishness or vice is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. Meanwhile, a parody is a literary or artistic work that uses imitation with deliberate exaggeration for comical effect. But parody only works when the reader or audience is familiar with the target. Having said all that, I’m afraid that The Whore of Mensa’s joke is lost on me. I scoured Google, but I still have no idea of the exact target. It could be the Wall Street executives for giving people shocks when they shake hands. Or, it could be the fact that people make good money from joy buzzers. Or maybe, it could be that the villain wanted to pass as Lionel Trilling  -had a surgery, but ended up looking like W.H. Auden and sounding like Mary McCarthy (who was absolutely gorgeous in her youth, btw)-  because, really, who wanted to look like Trilling anyways.

Perhaps, the humor is in the situational irony.

Oh, I’ve been busted before. I got caught reading Commentary in a parked car, and I was once stopped and frisked at Tanglewood.

From what I gathered in this story, prostitution and reading fiction are crimes. So, here, those are two no-noes put together. But it’s the forbidden that stimulates the mind; even“joy buzzer maintenance” craves for that. Men pay for an intellectual encounter, and RP costs much higher. What’s the case? Word Babcock is being blackmailed for soliciting the services of an intellectual prostitute; evidences will leak to his wife if he doesn’t pay the price. Kaiser Lupowitz, PI, is good enough to take the case. The biggest irony is that a college kick-out runs this intellectual operation.

I’m looking for a special edition of Advertisements for Myself. I understand the author had several thousand gold-leaf copies printed up for friends.

The story reminds me of Jasper Fforde. His books are also humorous and smart. For the most part, Allen’s not afraid of dropping names. Norman Mailer, I believe, took the hardest blow. Whenever it’s Allen, we presume it’s something as “here comes the funny part”. Maybe this is not meant to be funny, but smart; starting with the intellectual conversations in place of carnal exchanges in this story of crime and prostitution.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Collected in Without Feathers, 1975

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4 Responses to “Story Review: The Whore of Mensa by Woody Allen”

  1. Kristel

    Unfortunately the story is not available for free in The New Yorker, but I’m guessing a more effective noir parody would be Who Killed Roger Rabbit. At the very least I found it funny. :P

    I think you’re right that the ironic substitution of intellectual conversation for sex is the point of the story. I’d like to read this story if only to see if he got the writing style right–I think this is the crucial aspect of a noir mystery.

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    • Louize

      Hi, Kristel. I think this will work better as a skit. Knowing this is from Allen, the reader will have to amplify the characters’ facial expressions, deliveries, and punch lines. But I really want to know your take after reading this. :)

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  2. Kristel

    Unfortunately I didn’t think the story worked that well. I encounter a lot of noir parodies (Black Jack Justice and Beyond Belief podcasts) and one of the main features is the sort of flowery but distinctly cynical language. (“She had the body of an Indy 500 racetrack: all curves and explosions.”) This is for me just straight up fill in the blanks substitution of intellectual things over seedy crime things.

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