Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda

Date Completed: September 22, 2007
Pages: 224
Publication Year: 2007
Received from Random House in 2007.

Reason for Reading: It was a must read after reading his other memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, earlier this year.
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.
I do not know what it is about Alan Alda, but I have always liked him as an actor. I was not really around when M*A*S*H was on television, but yet I have always liked Alda. I watched him when he guest starred on ER and West Wing, watched reruns of his old show, and now I have read both of his memoirs. I am not even a big fan of comedians. I like humour that is believable, and for some reason I mostly find the humour on television what it is obviously is; fake. That is not to say that I do not laugh, I just do not necessarily like all the shows that other people like to make themselves laugh with.

This book takes place right where the last one leaves off, but it does not only talk about the couple of years following that experience, he goes back and talks about things that he did not mention in his previous books. He really does talk to himself in this book, and not in the way that makes people crazy, but by talking about speeches he has made throughout his career. Instead of just hearing what the audience heard, he interjects and talks about what he was thinking and why he said what he said. I have to say, some of his speeches were amazingly poignant, but yet funny at exactly the same time. This book will make you think while you laugh. It was also refreshing to see that me and Alan share some of the same ideals about how the world should be, and he is at least 40 years my senior.

He gives speeches at university convocations, and talks to the adults of tomorrow. He writes speeches for scientists, actors, and just regular people. He talks about his experiences with the 9/11 disaster, moments with his children and grandchildren, and other things that strike his fancy. He also talks about his wife, who he has been with for a great deal of time. I found this book very enjoyable, a nice balance of the serious with the humourous. I actually can say that I learned a lot from this book by thinking of it from a different perspective.

I recommend this book!


  1. This book rocks !

  2. Thanks for the wonderful review! I heard Alda talking about this book on NPR a few days back, and it sounded like a really interesting read. And now I'm even more likely to pick it up.

  3. Rachel: Yes, it does!

    Debi: If you haven't read his other book, I would read that first. This isn't really a sequel but he does talk about things in this book that he covered in extent in his other book, so he doesn't go into a lot of detail.


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