Woody Allen’s controversial memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was released without warning this Monday morning by Arcade Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse.
The US publisher took on the 84-year-old film director’s autobiography after his previous publisher, Hachette, dropped the book a month before its planned release date (April 7) following widespread criticism on social media.
According to the Associated Press, the 400-page memoir addresses Allen’s contentious affair with his ex-wife Mia Farrow’s daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who was 30 years Allen’s junior when the relationship began in the early Nineties, and to whom he is now married.
He writes of Previn: “At the very early stages of our new relationship, when lust reigns supreme … we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.” Allen also acknowledges the shock Farrow felt upon discovering erotic photographs of her 20-year-old daughter in Allen’s apartment. “Of course I understand her shock, her dismay, her rage, everything. It was the correct reaction.”
Apropos of Nothing, which will have a first print run of 75,000 copies, also confronts the child molestation allegations raised against him by his estranged, now 34-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Allen has always denied these claims, and was not charged following a legal battle in the Nineties. “I never laid a finger on Dylan, never did anything to her that could be even misconstrued as abusing her,” he writes in the memoir.
When Dylan learned of her father’s former publishing deal with Hachette on March 3, she took to Twitter to express her dismay, calling the memoir "a deeply upsetting and an utter betrayal of my brother whose brave reporting, capitalized on by Hachette, gave voice to numerous survivors of sexual assault by powerful men."
Her brother Ronan Farrow (Mia Farrow and Woody Allen’s biological son) shared the Pulitzer Prize with the New York Times for his New Yorker investigation into Harvey Weinstein. His book, Catch and Kill, about sexual predators in positions of power across the world, had also been published by Hachette in October 2019. Ronan called for a boycott of the publisher on his social media, prompting a walk-out by Hachette staff, who demanded their employer pull Allen’s memoir. Hachette cancelled Apropos of Nothing a week later.
“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for Hachette said in a statement at the time. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”
Until the surprise publication today, it was assumed the memoir would remain unpublished, or at the least Allen would need to self publish it. Allen's latest film A Rainy Day in New York remains unreleased in the US or UK, although it has been shown in some other territories. It stars Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning, who have formally distanced themselves from the project. Chalamet donated the salary he received from the film to victims of sexual abuse. Amazon shelved screening the film in 2018, which led to Allen hitting the studio with a $68million lawsuit, claiming breach of contract. Amazon and Allen have since settled the dispute out of court.
Strangely, Apropos of Nothing is unavailable on Amazon and via Arcade’s website, where other new book arrivals are listed. According to AP – seemingly the only media organisation to have been sent the book by the publisher – Arcade announced it as: “A candid and comprehensive personal account by Woody Allen of his life ranging from his childhood in Brooklyn through his acclaimed career in film, theater, television, print and standup comedy, as well as exploring his relationships with family and friends.”
Arcade editor Jeannette Seaver, who edited the memoir, said in a statement: “In this strange time, when truth is too often dismissed as ‘fake news,’ we as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected artist, rather than bow to those determined to silence him.” According to The New York Times, Allen had offered his memoir to several publishers, unsuccessfully, before Hachette agreed to take it on.
Seaver did not comment on whether the book would come out in Europe, and no financial details of the deal have been disclosed.
In a postscript to the Arcade edition of the memoir, Allen alleges that Hachette had vowed to publish despite his “being a toxic pariah and menace to society”. But, he writes, “When actual flak did arrive they thoughtfully reassessed their position” and “dumped the book like it was a hunk of Xenon 135”.