I just finished listening to Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned by Alan Alda. I was surprised and slightly disappointed at the start that Alda did not read the book himself, but the compelling story soon let me forget his vocal absence. Having seen countless episodes of M*A*S*H and movies starring Alda and knowing his voice well, I almost heard his voice telling the story. His writing sends his voice well without the actual sound. Some of the story is so emotional, it might have been difficult for him to read.
I was surprised that Alda's earliest memories came from the period of traveling around the U.S. with his father on the Burlesque Circuit of the 1930s. I think of Alda as much too young to have ever seen something so ancient as Burlesque. I always equate him with the generation of college students protesting Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is when M*A*S*H debuted. That's where I had pegged him. On further reflection, I can seeing the Burlesque influence in his work.
The story about the stuffing of a pet dog comes from Alda's youth. His father was an actor under a Warner Brothers' contract during World War II, and the family was living in a house in rural California. The author had been given the dog as a companion during his polio quarantine. It died a very strange and shocking death after eating leftovers. Its stuffing, suggested by Alda's father, did not succeed in lessening the pain of the memory of its death. Even as a child, the author saw how misguided the gesture was, and the story became for him a standard by which to measure other episodes in his life.
Readers wanting M*A*S*H stories to dominate the book will be disappointed. There are some stories about the making of the show and his friendship with the other actors, but Alda's biography is mostly about his education, his career, his study of acting, and his relationship with his parents. He tells about his near death in the mountains of Chile in the later section of the book.
All Alan Alda's fans should read this book.
Alda, Alan. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned. New York : Random House, 2005. ISBN 1400064090
Alda, Alan. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned. Santa Ana, CA : Books on Tape, 2005. ISBN 1415924325