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 by Alan Alda X
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 272 pages

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Book Summary

Alan Alda, one of America’s most recognizable and acclaimed actors, has written a memoir as elegant, funny, and affecting as his greatest performances.

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

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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...continued

Full Review (557 words).

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Media Reviews

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.

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.

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Beyond the Book

The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that was intended to guarantee equal rights under the law for Americans regardless of sex.  Although the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteed American women's right to vote, suffragette leader Alice Paul argued that vestiges of legal discrimination remained and proposed the ERA.  The ERA was introduced at every session of Congress from 1923 to 1970 (it was opposed by The American Federation of Labor, other unions and most "New Dealers" who contended that women needed government help and should not be forced into the workplace to compete with men).  It was finally adopted by the House of Representatives in 1971, and by the...

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