Study Guide

The Whore of Mensa

by Woody Allen

The Whore of Mensa Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Kaiser Lupowitz, a New York private detective, is hired by Word Babcock to thwart a blackmail scheme. Babcock, who builds and services joy buzzers, considers himself an intellectual but does not find his wife intellectually stimulating: “She won’t discuss Pound with me. Or Eliot. I didn’t know that when I married her.” He hears about a call-girl service providing female college students who will discuss intellectual matters for a fee, and he becomes a regular customer. Flossie, the madam, wants ten thousand dollars, or else she will turn over to his wife tapes of his “discussing The Waste Land and Styles of Radical Will, and, well, really getting into some issues” with a girl in a motel room. Babcock needs help because his wife “would die if she knew she didn’t turn me on up here.”

Lupowitz calls Flossie, who sends him Sherry to discuss the works of Herman Melville in a room at the Plaza. After some pseudointellectual banter, Lupowitz threatens to have Sherry arrested unless she tells him where to find Flossie. Sherry begins to cry, saying that she has reached her current state because she needs the money to complete her master’s degree: “I’ve been turned down for a grant. Twice.”

Sherry sends Lupowitz to the Hunter College Book Store, a front for Flossie’s operation. The detective discovers that Flossie is really a man. Flossie explains that he wanted to take over The New York Review of Books and went to Mexico for an operation that was supposed to make him look like Lionel Trilling: “Something went wrong. I came out looking like Auden, with Mary McCarthy’s voice. That’s when I started working the other side of the law.”

Lupowitz disarms Flossie before the male madam can shoot him. Taking him to the police, Lupowitz learns that the FBI is after Flossie: “A little matter involving some gamblers and an annotated copy of Dante’s Inferno.”