Story Title: The Kugelmass Episode
Collected In: Side Effects
Brief Story Description: A balding humanity professor, Kugelmass, quits going to see his psychoanalyst thinking that he is better off employing the services of a magician. Finding ‘The Great Persky’, he is offered to be put into a box that will transport him into the pages of any book that he chooses. Kugelmass decides to enter Madame Bovary and have an affair with Emma before page 120 when Rodolphe comes into the story. Deciding to show Madame Bovary a weekend in New York, Kugelmass removes her from the book, only to have Persky have difficulty returning her. Kugelmass finds his affair disrupting his real life marriage.
Why it works humour wise: If you like Woody Allen, you’ll like his short stories, Woody Allen throughout his career seems to repeat variations of a theme. If you hate Woody Allen, his stories will offer little else. His humour, while it departs into the fantastical, has a strong realistic setting. Even when entering the book, Kugelmass is concentrating not on the magic of it, but its effect on his day to day life. Allen has a quick wit, and a way of upsetting expectations. Kugelmass is corrected by the magician and told ‘The Great Persky’ every time he tries to call him ‘Persky the Great’. The ending (Spoiler alert) where Kugelmass gets trapped in the wrong book accidentally thrown into the machine (a book of Spanish verbs), shows Allen never misses the opportunity to twist something into a joke.
Further Comments: It’s interesting how certain comedians can cross easily into literature. Woody Allen is about all things New York, so it stands to reason that he should at one time been oft-published in the New Yorker. Steve Martin is another comedian who crosses back and forwards into the literary world and back. It makes sense, comedians often tell stories in their stand up sets, but it seems to take a particularly determined individual to cross into the world traditionally occupied by authors. It must be somewhat of a two edged sword; the fame a successful comedian has, may let them get their stories looked at, but then they have to overcome the hurdle that they aren’t part of the literary establishment. Yet Woody Allen certainly deserves to be recognised for his literary works, and can join a distinguished line up of New Yorker magazine comedy writers such as Thurber.