Saturday, January 19, 2008


NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED and Other Things I've Learned by Alan Alda was read for 3 challenges: In Their Shoes, What's in a Name (animal), and Celebrate the Author (birthday January 28).

From the book jacket:

He's one of America's most recognizable and acclaimed actors - a star on Broadway, an Oscar nominee for The Aviator, and, for eleven years, the inimitable Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H - during which time he became the only person ever to win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing. Now Alan Alda has written a memoir as elegant, funny, and affecting as his greatest performances.

"My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six," begins Alda's irresistible story. The son of a popular actor and a loving but mentally ill mother, he spent his early childhood backstage in the erotic and comic world of burlesque and went on, after early struggles, to achieve extraordinary success in his profession.

Yet NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED is not a memoir of show business ups and downs. It is a moving and funny story of a boy growing into a man who then realizes he has only just begun to grow. It is the story of turning points in Alda's life, events that would make him what he is - if only he could survive them.

From the moment as a boy when his dead dog is returned from the taxidermist's shop with a hideous expression on its face, and Alda learns that death can't be undone, to his decades-long effort to find compassion for the mother he lived with but never knew, to his acceptance of his father, both personally and professionally, Alda learns the hard way that change, uncertainty, and transformation are what life is made of, and that true happiness is found in embracing them.

NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED, filled with wonder, good humor, and honesty, is the crowning achievement of an actor, author, and director. But surprisingly, it is the story of a life more filled with turbulence and laughter than any Alda has ever played on the stage or screen.

Well, that just about sums up the book. Not much left for me to say.

Alan Alda is a complex man. I had thought of him just as Hawkeye, funny and irreverent. But this book showed him to be much more. I had expected more information about M*A*S*H, and was a little disappointed that the show was not covered in more detail. I never knew about his interest in science, or that he had hosted a PBS show - Scientific American Frontiers - for eleven years. I never knew about his mother and her illness. This book was more serious than I had thought it would be. Overall, it was interesting to learn more about Alan Alda the man, but I think I wanted to know more about Alan Alda the actor.

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