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 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 his face, and he learns that death can’t be undone, to the 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 true happiness is found in embracing them.
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, filled with curiosity about nature, 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.
"My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six," actor and author Alan Alda writes at the beginning of his autobiography. The child of a well-known actor, Alda (born Alphonso D'Abruzzo) spent his early years on the road with a burlesque troupe. The time spent on the stage wings, watching his father perform, made a profound impact on the youngster, igniting a desire to entertain others that has stayed with him his entire life. Just as profound was his mother's losing battle with mental illness; Alda spent much of his adult life attempting to reconcile his resentment of her outbursts and unmanageable behavior coupled with her unbridled enthusiasm for life and encouragement. Fueled by a desire to learn and constantly question, Alda carves out his own path; he marries and starts a family while continuing to act and write. His enthusiasm for new experiences-improv, musical theater, television, film-enabled him to grow as an artist, resulting in better jobs. (Alda discussed his most famous role, as Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H*, in 1985's The Last Days of M*A*S*H*.) Humble to a fault, Alda spends more time discussing his formative years than he does on his Emmies and Oscar nominations, which he glosses over. A significant chunk of the final third of the book is devoted to an epiphany Alda had after a health scare in Chile. It runs a bit long, but Alda's conversational style keeps the story on track. It's a brief but entertaining autobiography tempered with humility and a depth rarely found in celebrity memoirs.
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Mr. Alda's book allows the reader to gain in site into his background, experiences, and trials. Opening a chapter into a well educated, quiet, respectful gentleman. Thank you for sharing your mental information respectfully and comically which is often forgotten. To the memories of mental difficulties always remember to try and laugh.
Very good read
Alda is a skilled writer too!
He writes about his interestingly awkward childhood traveling with his father who was in the entertainment business and how confusing it was to be raised by his Mother who suffered from mental illness.
I felt like I was listening to books on tape. I could hear Akan Alda telling me his incredible life story.