Summary and book reviews of Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

And Other Things I've Learned

By Alan Alda

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2005,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2006,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

He’s one of America’s most recognizable and acclaimed actors–a star on Broadway, an Oscar nominee for The Aviator, and the only person to ever win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing, during his eleven years on M*A*S*H. Now Alan Alda has written a memoir as elegant, funny, and affecting as his greatest performances.

“My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six,” begins Alda’s irresistible story. The son of a popular actor and a loving but mentally ill mother, he spent his early childhood backstage in the erotic and comic world of burlesque and went on, after early struggles, to achieve extraordinary success in his profession.

Yet Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not a memoir of show-business ups and downs. It is a moving and funny story of a boy growing into a man who then realizes he has only just begun to grow.

It is the story of turning points in Alda’s life, events that would make him what he is–if only he could survive them.

From the moment as a boy when his dead dog is returned from the taxidermist’s shop with a hideous expression on his face, and he learns that death can’t be undone, to the decades-long effort to find compassion for the mother he lived with but never knew, to his acceptance of his father, both personally and professionally, Alda learns the hard way that change, uncertainty, and transformation are what life is made of, and true happiness is found in embracing them.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, filled with curiosity about nature, good humor, and honesty, is the crowning achievement of an actor, author, and director, but surprisingly, it is the story of a life more filled with turbulence and laughter than any Alda has ever played on the stage or screen.

Chapter 1
DON’T NOTICE ANYTHING

My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that. Her detached gaze, the secret smile. Something.

We were living in a two-room apartment over the dance floor of a nightclub. My father was performing in the show that played below us every night. We could hear the musical numbers through the floorboards, and we had heard the closing number at midnight. My father should have come back from work hours ago.

My mother had asked me to stay up with her. She was lonely. We played gin rummy as the band below us played “Brazil” and couples danced through the haze of booze and cigarette smoke late into the night.

Finally, he came in. She jumped up, furious. “Where have you been?” she screamed. Even at the age of six, I could understand her anger. He worked with half-naked women and came home late. It wasn’t crazy to be suspicious.

She told...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Two themes run through his book - family and politics. As one reviewer puts it, "in a profession where marriages are acquired and discarded like consumer goods", his 50-year marriage to Arlene, and their three happy daughters "really is something to brag about". As for politics, Alda has been highly active on behalf of the feminist movement, and whether you agree or disagree with his views on the Equal Rights Amendment (see sidebar), it is not possible to doubt his sincerity and commitment.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Though the organization of these musings can feel disjointed, Alda's intimate, dynamic narration makes one feel as if you're sitting across from a wise and entertaining friend, the kind you could listen to for hours.

Booklist

Refreshingly, this collection of biographical sketches is written in a good-natured and compassionate way.

The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley

It all adds up to an amiable, occasionally amusing book. Alda tells [many stories] here, and he tells them well.

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Beyond the Book

Alan Alda was born Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo in 1936. His Italian-American father, Robert Alda (born Alphonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto D'Abruzzo), was a successful actor who ran a burlesque theatre; his mother Joan Brown, a former "Miss New York" beauty queen, suffered from schizophrenia. His parents eventually divorced; Alan has a half-brother, Anthony, twenty years his junior. The D'Abruzzos adopted the name Alda by combining the first two letters of Alphonso and D'Abruzzo.

He contracted polio when he was seven years old, which left him bedridden for two years. He graduated from Fordham University in 1956, and joined the US Army Reserve, serving a six-month tour of duty in Korea (3-years after the ...

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