matter how many times we hear about near-death experiences, we
cannot appreciate the impact until it happens to us. Alan
Alda’s brush with a life-threatening crisis prompted him to
delve more deeply into the serious questions that such an event
often presents. Though he had already written a successful memoir,
NEVER HAVE YOUR DOG STUFFED, Alda takes that challenge and looks
more closely at the things that have given meaning and purpose to
his life and to recognize those things that he would like to define
more clearly now that he has gotten a second chance.
It is refreshing to find that a man with the obvious successes that
Alda has enjoyed can be humble enough to admit that he still has
some learning to do. He still needs to be open to asking questions
and listening to answers that can enhance not only his own life but
the lives of the many who fall into his sphere of influence.
Reading through his conversations with himself about these
matters not only provides the fun of eavesdropping on one of our
favorite celebrities but also gives us a nudge to be honest about
our own conceptions.
THINGS I OVERHEARD WHILE TALKING TO MYSELF is written in the style
of conversations with oneself and with others, interspersed with
speeches that Alda has given on various occasions. It is not
stream of consciousness because the
syntax is clear, and there is no problem following his thoughts.
Yet, as thoughts and conversations often do, subjects change
quickly and jump from past to present and back again as
reminiscences come to mind. Throughout this entertaining book, the
themes remain clear: What are you doing with the life you’ve
been given? Are you taking it for granted? What will you be
While a survey once showed that Alda was found to be more
recognizable as Hawkeye Pierce during his 11-year stint on
“M*A*S*H” than Abraham Lincoln, he was surprised and
wondered why. Despite the fact that he was nominated for an Oscar,
and an Emmy and a Tony in his 69th year, Alda still had questions
he hoped to answer for himself and to encourage others to answer as
well. His search shows us that it’s never too late to
increase our self-awareness and to spread around some
encouragement, some love and some life for those who may be in
need. The only thing that surprises me is that, in all his musings,
Alda did not reach back to the God of his earlier faith and try to
reconnect. I’m just sayin’.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on January 23, 2011