On the heels of his acclaimed memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, beloved actor and bestselling author Alan Alda has written Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, an insightful and funny look at some of the impossible questions he’s asked himself over the years: What do I value? What, exactly, is the good life? (And what does that even mean?)
Picking up where his bestselling memoir left off–having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a mountaintop in Chile–Alda finds himself not only glad to be alive but searching for a way to squeeze the most juice out of his new life. Looking for a sense of meaning that would make this extra time count, he listens in on things he’s heard himself saying in private and in public at critical points in his life–from the turbulence of the sixties, to his first Broadway show, to the birth of his children, to the ache of September 11, and beyond. Reflecting on the transitions in his life and in all our lives, he notices that “doorways are where the truth is told,” and wonders if there’s one thing–art, activism, family, money, fame–that could lead to a “life of meaning.”
In a book that is candid, wise, and as questioning as it is incisive, Alda amuses and moves us with his unique and hilarious meditations on questions great and small. Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself is another superb Alan Alda performance, as inspiring and entertaining as the man himself.
After actor Alda (Never Have Your Dog Stuffed) recovered from a nearly fatal intestinal obstruction, he decided to live as if he'd been given a second life. To make his new life as meaningful as possible, he wanted to remember those rare moments when a special stillness had come over him, the kind that hits you when you hear something that goes to the core of who you think you are. These were moments when he'd had some understanding about the meaning of his life, his reason for living the central questions that Alda grapples with, as he looks back over his life. While poking good-natured fun at some of his earlier rhetoric ( the ravings of a na ve Hollywood liberal ) he shares highlights of the various commencement speeches and keynote addresses he's given to future doctors and physicists, or even to the odd group of Jefferson scholars. He phrases it differently for each audience, but the message is consistent: It's not what you do in life, but how you do it. Notice everything. Always be open to new ideas, new experiences. Alda is chatty, easygoing and humble, rather like a Mr. Rogers for grownups. His words of inspiration would be a perfect gift for a college grad or for anyone facing major life changes.
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Are you talking to me?
I went on vacation with my spouse and no computers. Picked up a copy of Mr. Alda’s “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself” books on the shelf at the B and B,and was so absorbed that I finished it in two sittings.
I have always loved Mr. Alda and his work in movies and on TV. When his health took a turn a few years back, he was so grateful to be given his life back, he wanted to share his new insights but, as “normal” replaced his excitement. Each chapter is a look back to connections and lectures/speeches Mr. Alda has given as he reviews his life through these “notes”, adding new understandings gleaned in the review.
This book was as if I was the one he was talking to. I highly recommend it. 5/5