Alan Alda,
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed & Other Things I've Learned
(Random House, 2005)

Alan Alda has been entertaining audiences since the age of 2, when he appeared in a Toronto newspaper smoking a pipe -- though these days, most people tend to recognize him from his 11 years playing Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce on M*A*S*H or recent appearances on The West Wing. A writer and director, he has also appeared on Broadway and in numerous movies, as well as spending another 11 years working on PBS's Scientific American Frontiers.

In his autobiography, Alda relates tales about traveling with his parents on the burlesque and vaudeville circuits (naked ladies!) before settling down in California when his father Robert became a movie actor. He talks about his later childhood, meeting his wife Arlene, his time in Paris as a young man, his early acting jobs, M*A*S*H and the emergency surgery he had in Chile just a few years ago while working on an episode of Scientific American Frontiers. He also speaks candidly about his mother's mental illness (even beginning the book by relating how she tried to stab his father when Alda was 6), something that just wasn't done when he was younger.

An incident in Alda's childhood supplies the book's title. Rather than face burying his pet spaniel, the family took the body to a taxidermist. But when they got the dog back, there was such a horrible look on its face that they couldn't stand to display it. The lesson, learned at an early age: you can't hold off change.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is a fascinating look into the life of a beloved celebrity, told with deft, understated humor.

by Laurie Thayer
25 March 2006

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