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Nevertheless: A Memoir

Review

Nevertheless: A Memoir

I’m not sure what I expected to find in Alec Baldwin’s memoir, NEVERTHELESS. I’ve been a fan of the actor since I discovered the television show “30 Rock” about eight years ago. His portrayal of Jack Donaghy, the Reagan-worshipping Six Sigma head of East Coast Television and Microwave Programming at GE/NBC, was legend to me. Though I know Jack is a fictional character and Baldwin probably holds little to none of the same beliefs and ideals as Jack, they melded together in my psyche. I hoped I’d find much of Jack’s deprecating honesty and charm on the pages of NEVERTHELESS. But Alec is not Jack, and he’s never seemed more Alec than in written form.

Baldwin is having a moment right now. His frequent and uncannily accurate impressions of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” have brought him back to the forefront of public imagination since “30 Rock” concluded three years ago. His new movie Boss Baby hit number one at the box office. And he’s released his second book to some controversy. Typos and quibbles with his editor aside, NEVERTHELESS surprised me several times for very different reasons.

"Baldwin cares deeply for his family, both the one he’s created and the one he was born into, and the chapters about them shine.... NEVERTHELESS is a fascinating read, especially if you’re a fan of Baldwin."

The first is the fact that a man who has had very public disputes over privacy and private life was writing a memoir. That surprise was allayed in the prologue: “I’m not writing this to discuss my work, my opinions or my life,” says Baldwin, “I’m writing it because I was paid to write it.” Well, okay. Now we all know where we stand. But he continues on, saying that he’s glad he did so, if only to discover things about himself that he forgot. Baldwin is candid in writing about his childhood; his relationships with his father, mother and siblings; his life growing up poor in Massapequa, Long Island; and how he joined the football team only because it made his father happy.

I found myself surprised again about halfway through when I realized that this book was making me like Baldwin less. His candor was welcomed in some places and disheartening in others. He speaks plainly about overdosing while filming “Knots Landing” when in his 20s and how he’s been sober since that night. I appreciated his honestly in that moment. Some chapters later, as he’s losing the Jack Ryan/Tom Clancy franchise to Harrison Ford, he minces few words in regards to his opinion of Ford. I felt scandalized reading Baldwin’s portrayal of Ford. It seemed like he was leveling a 25-year rivalry with a bitterness reserved for teenage girls. But that’s the nature of memoir, and I’d rather have an honest telling than one that paints everything as always rosy.

Baldwin tracks his career like an IMDb page, expounding on some credits and breezing past others. There are chapters that read as a love letter to theater, which appears to be his first acting love. He doles out accolades when he feels they are deserved, calling Ben Affleck “a prince” and telling readers how truly brilliant Tina Fey is, and that he questioned Lorne Michaels about her marital status upon meeting her.

He does spare details about his divorce from Kim Basinger --- his first book, A PROMISE TO OURSELVES, deals with this --- but talks extensively about his love for his daughter, Ireland, and addresses the infamous leaked voicemail message of 2007. One thing that is always apparent is his love and devotion to his kids, both Ireland and the three young children he has with wife, Hilaria. Baldwin cares deeply for his family, both the one he’s created and the one he was born into, and the chapters about them shine.

NEVERTHELESS is a fascinating read, especially if you’re a fan of Baldwin. I was, in the end, slightly disappointed that he didn’t spend more time delving into “30 Rock” and that I ultimately found him less charming than his Jack Donaghy character. It’s also worth noting that he narrates the audiobook. As with any celebrity memoir written by someone who is not a writer, Baldwin’s prose is sometimes lacking, with clunky or nonexistent transitions and tirades that last and last --- and when he returns to his original point, you’ve forgotten what he was talking about in the first place. But no one really reads celebrity memoirs for the writing.

Reviewed by Sarah Jackman on April 19, 2017

Nevertheless: A Memoir
by Alec Baldwin

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062409700
  • ISBN-13: 9780062409706