I love the tv show MASH and I especially love Alan Alda’s character Hawkeye. So when I found out that Alan Alda, who by the end of the series was directing and writing episodes, had also written a book, I was pretty excited to read it. I was actually a little late on the uptake as, it turns out, this was his first of two books. I expect I’ll get to his second sooner rather than later, which is to say I genuinely enjoyed his first one. Though given the stories that have come out of his life, I’d say it would be hard to write an uninteresting book about him.
I’m sucker for autobiographies because I’m curious about how people view themselves. Especially people that live what seem to be extraordinary lives. Do their lives seem special to them? Is what looks fabulous actually fabulous? Basically, how do they remember it? It’s a different perspective that I’m getting in what feels like a very intimate way. I was in my bed while I read the list of people that Alan Alda kissed for goodness sake. If that’s not personal, I really don’t know what is. However, I find it hard to believe that anyone has vivid memories from when they were three, which, I believe is the youngest age Alda tells a story from. I have a particularly unreliable memory, but I’ve checked with a total of four people and none of them remember anything from when they were three.
This made it hard for me to carry on through the first couple of chapters because I had a sense of doubt about the book as a whole. But carry on I did, and it was absolutely worth it. Alda is incredibly insightful and smart, and he addresses the exact problem I had with the early memories later on in the book. I won’t tell you how exactly because I’m not a fan of spoilers, but, as with most sections of the book, he manages to address facts of his life while also posing thoughtful questions about life in general.
His comedic background really shines through in that many of his stories are set up like a standup would set up a joke. Sometimes, while reading, it would feel like he just couldn’t resist sneaking in a couple of one liners. For the most part this worked, and it made it a very conversational book, occasionally however, the jokes that would work so well if spoken, fell flat on the page. Luckily, because I have watched so much MASH over the years, the narration in my head was in his voice.
Essentially what I’m saying is you should read this book, because he’s got some great stories to tell and is smart enough to tell them in an interesting way. However, before you read it, you should watch about four episodes of MASH (it’s on Netflix) to really get the full Alan Alda experience. I’m off to track down his second book.
(Total side note, but do all autobiographies have an “about the author” section? Doesn’t that seem a little superfluous? Wasn’t the whole book just about the author?)