Books Completed: 43
Completion Date: March 2007
Publication Year: 2006
Received from Random House Prior to 2007
After reading Joan Didion, I signed up for The Spring Reading Thing, and I put this book on my list. A lot of people were mentioning interest in this book, so I made it my first read for the challenge.
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.
Everyone has memories from their childhood that reflect their parents. Something that their parents did enough that it stuck with you. One of my memories was M*A*S*H. My parents used to watch this show when I was small, I think it would have all ready been in the rerun stage or close to it, and I never forgot it. Nowadays, if I see an episode on I will sit down and watch it myself. Who knows if I even like the show, it just has happy memories for me. Alan Alda was always my favourite, I will never forget when he guest starred on ER, my favourite television show at the time. It was a big deal! I cannot wait until they release that season on DVD.
When I picked this book up, I knew it was going to be a humourous read. It might touch on serious subject matter and have its dark moments, but it is Alan Alda and I like to think that he always has to have at least one laugh, so I knew I was in for some smiles. First up, this book has one of the best first lines I have ever read. I read lots of books, and I never remember the first line, but when a book starts off with “My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six", you know that you are going to have those words stuck in your mind for some time to come.
The title of this book is great too, even though it is a very literal title, he really did have one of his dogs stuffed and that horrifies me on many levels. I really do not think anyone should ever have their dog stuffed, even as an attempt to make a child feel like the dog is still around. That is just creepy. The title could also refer to life in general and how you should never let yourself get stuffed, because that means you are doing the same thing over and over again. People need variety in life.
This memoir covers more than just Alda's acting career, it talks about his life from early childhood to near the time that he published this book. It talks about the jobs that he would have and how he suffered to make ends meet when he was just starting out, but it also talks about his life in general. There are the funny scenes, there is how he always felt like he had to compete with his father, and how he never understood his mother. In a very short book, Alda captures his life and makes you laugh along the way.