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Paperback Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned Book

ISBN: 0812974409

ISBN13: 9780812974409

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned

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Book Overview

He's one of America's most recognizable and acclaimed actors-a star on Broadway, an Oscar nominee for The Aviator, and the only person to ever win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing, during his eleven years on M*A*S*H. 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A travelogue through Alda's interesting and eventful life

My eighth grade science teacher used to tell us that the definition of intelligence is "the ability to adapt to a changing environment." If this is so, then no wonder Alan Alda has had such a long and varied career. From the venerable Hawkeye Pierce on TV's "M*A*S*H" to menacing Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in The Aviator, Alda works consistently and always seems to be changing. Thanks to my Korean War-veteran father, I was reared on "M*A*S*H" (with him kindly pointing out the show's leaps in logic --- "Their tour of duty would never be that long!"). As a child of the 1970s, I have fond memories of Alda from his participation in the children's record "Free to Be You and Me." When he did a guest spot on "ER" a few years back, as a befuddled doctor slowly coming to grips with Alzheimer's, I rediscovered just how good of an actor he is. He is always experimenting and is consistently convincing. So if Alda's career is anything but predictable, the same is true of his recently published memoir. "My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that." Not your typical opener for a Hollywood tome. NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED is not your typical Hollywood book, but more of a travelogue through an interesting and eventful life. Fans of "M*A*S*H" expecting long, gossipy discourses and behind-the-scenes drama might be disappointed. Alda devotes little time to talking about the landmark series, choosing to focus more on his upbringing and his time as host of the PBS series "Scientific American Frontiers." Told with equal parts candor and humor, Alda recounts the most valuable lessons he gleaned from his many years in front of and behind the camera. From his early years traveling with his parents --- his vaudevillian actor father and his mentally ill mother --- through a childhood bout with polio, to his years as a working actor and family man, NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED delivers a well-rounded portrait of Alda rather than a gossipy tell-all --- a refreshing change in this tabloid age. --- Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller

An Actor of Depth Tells His Tale

I just finished listening to Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned by Alan Alda. I was surprised and slightly disappointed at the start that Alda did not read the book himself, but the compelling story soon let me forget his vocal absence. Having seen countless episodes of M*A*S*H and movies starring Alda and knowing his voice well, I almost heard his voice telling the story. His writing sends his voice well without the actual sound. Some of the story is so emotional, it might have been difficult for him to read. I was surprised that Alda's earliest memories came from the period of traveling around the U.S. with his father on the Burlesque Circuit of the 1930s. I think of Alda as much too young to have ever seen something so ancient as Burlesque. I always equate him with the generation of college students protesting Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is when M*A*S*H debuted. That's where I had pegged him. On further reflection, I can seeing the Burlesque influence in his work. The story about the stuffing of a pet dog comes from Alda's youth. His father was an actor under a Warner Brothers' contract during World War II, and the family was living in a house in rural California. The author had been given the dog as a companion during his polio quarantine. It died a very strange and shocking death after eating leftovers. Its stuffing, suggested by Alda's father, did not succeed in lessening the pain of the memory of its death. Even as a child, the author saw how misguided the gesture was, and the story became for him a standard by which to measure other episodes in his life. Readers wanting M*A*S*H stories to dominate the book will be disappointed. There are some stories about the making of the show and his friendship with the other actors, but Alda's biography is mostly about his education, his career, his study of acting, and his relationship with his parents. He tells about his near death in the mountains of Chile in the later section of the book. All Alan Alda's fans should read this book.

Great writing from a nice guy

There's simply nothing wrong with this book. In prose that flows so smoothly you'll want to down the whole of it in one sitting Alan Alda, whose TV personae most of us will have admired for years, shows himself to be in real life an affable, intelligent, intellectually curious, normal, nice guy. Who can write well. He begins with one of the best first lines of a book I've ever read: "My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that." And he goes on to tell the story of his life in roughly chronological order: from a dysfunctional childhood spent in the wings of the burlesque theaters in which his father worked, to his own years--many of them--as a struggling actor, to the more lucrative period of his career. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not what one might expect of a celebrity memoir, not only because it is so very good but also because there is, you come to realize, so very little celebrity in it. Alda notices this himself about two-thirds of the way into the book in a prelude to his discussion of the amusing and unpleasant side effects of fame. ("This is what getting famous does to you, I thought. You wind up sending suicidal people form letters.") Alda does not here recite his stepping stones to greatness. He rather gives an honest account of his growth as an actor and a person over the years--how his intellect was challenged and changed, how he struggled to act rather than just perform. Nor does he shy away from self-criticism. There are no great faux pas to which Alda must confess, no substance abuse or extra-marital dalliances, but he does something arguably more difficult. He writes about the ambivalence he felt for his parents--his father Robert, with whom he often felt himself in competition, and his mentally ill mother. And he shows himself to have behaved badly toward his father, in particular, in small moments that apparently seared his conscience. Alda's discussions of his parents' deaths are the most poignant of the book. Unsurprisingly, Alda is also sometimes funny in the book ("Apparently, you can offer to disembowel me, but I'll still see if I can make you laugh.") But he is nothing at all like the smooth-talking, gregarious, Groucho-esque character he played in M*A*S*H. That Alda does not share Hawkeye's personality did not surprise me. Why should he? But I was surprised that in reading Alda's memoir I almost forgot about M*A*S*H and Hawkeye Pierce completely. Obviously this book comes very highly recommended. Buy it and enjoy it. Like me you may find yourself reading the last page very slowly in a vain attempt to keep it from ending. Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece

excellent deep autobiography

Highly regarded actor Alan Alda provides a deep autobiography, but not the usual kiss and tell scintillating tale of sin city. Instead his superbly written memoir grips readers starting with the stunning opening comment that "My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was 6 ..." and never lets up until he finishes his memoirs. Readers will gain an understanding of what has motivated Mr. Alda through his use of humor, charm, and the macabre such as the title of his book referring to sending the family's deceased pet Rhapsody to be stuffed by a taxidermist. Those readers seeking a Hollywood exposé need to search elsewhere as Mr. Alda has been married to the same woman for almost fifty years without referring to any side trysts. Even his long movie and TV career except for some intriguing insights into M*A*S*H is a quick glimpse with external anecdotes to remind him how fleeting fame is. Instead he concentrates on the major personal events like polio treatment or touring as a kid with his parents, his father being a star of burlesque so as a kid he traveled with the strippers, but especially his mom's schizophrenia that haunts him today with a fear he will join her in her dark room. This autobiography is one of the best out there as Mr. Alda lays out his soul including those demons eating at it, but never points the finger at his peers. Harriet Klausner

Memories of a pioneer metrosexual

Emmy-award winning star of screen and stage, Alan Alda never was the prototypical Hollywood star. Now indelibly associated with MASH and the 1970's, his life was---and is----much more beyond Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce. In his own words, Alda's autobiography delivers a sentimental portrait of this second generation actor. The son of actor Robert Alda, Alan knew that he also wanted to act from an early age. However there were some initial bumps to the dream being realized. In addition to coping with a childhood bout of polio, the younger Alda also dealt with a mentally ill mother. Using his trademark humor, Alda recounts how his love for mom existed alongside concern what she would do to the family and/or herself. Given what people were being treated with back then, keeping her at home was the infinitely more compassionate option-albeit not without its own challenges upon the family. Such experiences ultimately prompted Alan to develop his trademark sensitivity to others. Family is a recurring theme throughout this book. In a profession where marriages are acquired and discarded like consumer goods, his 48-year marriage to Arlene really is something to brag about. They've also managed to raise three daughters, again defying the Hollywood odds of the `dysfunctional family' being an inevitable counterbalance to meteoric fame. I'm guessing the Washington D.C. `family values' crowd is too busy protecting the sanctity of marriage to take notice of somebody who actually illustrates it. Politics is another theme running throughout this book. Bucking the route taken by many other leading men, Alda used his celebrity to lobby on behalf of the feminist movement. This involvement ultimately resulted in his being named an honorary co-chair (along with former Republican First Lady Betty Ford) of the Equal Rights Amendment ratification countdown campaign. The sincerity which Alda and wife Arlene (who contributed photos for Ms. Magazine) have for this cause is genuinely inspiring, it's not at all a case of him `helping the ladies' or being `politically correct'. His passion for social justice is noticeably missing from many of today's actors-who are content to let their female co-stars (say anything if at all) about women's equality. Alda was a pioneer metrosexual. M*A*S*H itself is obviously given some space in this book. M*A*S*H worked when it did because a combination of good writers, directors, actors, and perfect political timing. The show was allegedly set in Korea but (as intended) viewers easily saw it as an anti-Vietnam war commentary. The medical personnel patching up soldiers in military hospitals received constant reminders that war is not `fun' or `just'. Other sections in this book include Alda's movie work (Betsy's Wedding) and return to television acting with guest spots on ER (among other shows). I was gennuinely riveted to the story of his emergency appendectomy in Chile. I'm still struck by the humility which this guy exhibits cons
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