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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Author: Alan Alda
Narrator: Alan Alda
Duration: 6 hrs, 1 min
Publisher: Random House Audio
Source: Library

Description from Goodreads:
On the heels of his acclaimed memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, beloved actor and bestselling author Alan Alda has written Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, an insightful and funny look at some of the impossible questions he’s asked himself over the years: What do I value? What, exactly, is the good life? (And what does that even mean?)

Picking up where his bestselling memoir left off–having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a mountaintop in Chile–Alda finds himself not only glad to be alive but searching for a way to squeeze the most juice out of his new life. Looking for a sense of meaning that would make this extra time count, he listens in on things he’s heard himself saying in private and in public at critical points in his life–from the turbulence of the sixties, to his first Broadway show, to the birth of his children, to the ache of September 11, and beyond. Reflecting on the transitions in his life and in all our lives, he notices that “doorways are where the truth is told,” and wonders if there’s one thing–art, activism, family, money, fame–that could lead to a “life of meaning.”

In a book that is candid, wise, and as questioning as it is incisive, Alda amuses and moves us with his unique and hilarious meditations on questions great and small. Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself is another superb Alan Alda performance, as inspiring and entertaining as the man himself.

Though I should have been reading other books, I simply had to sit and listen to Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. My parents raised me to appreciate M*A*S*H, and so I've always had an interest in Alan Alda. Of course, as Alda discusses, celebrity is a strange thing, and celebrities often disappoint on closer inspection. I will probably never meet Alan Alda, so I can't say whether he would disappoint if I did meet him, but listening to this audiobook has only made me admire him more.

The title is a strange one, and means exactly what it says. In Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, Alan Alda considers various speeches he gave throughout his life, such as commencements and eulogies. He looks back at what he said then and tries to boil down them down to what he really believes and what he really wants to pass on to people about living life. While initially skeptical about this construct, it proves to be an incredibly fascinating pursuit, as he learns from his past self.

No doubt this book will also lose him fans. Alan Alda is a very political man. He has very strong opinions on things like equal rights and the environment and the arms race. I happen to agree with him on pretty much all of this, so I appreciate his candor, but those staunchly on the other side of the spectrum will likely be offended.

Alda makes several basic observations and then looks at them again and again. Still, the book managed not to come across as repetitive, though it might seem that way to those less interested in continual philosophical musings. His thoughts on the divide between the humanities and science are especially compelling.

For those looking for an in depth look at Alan Alda's life, this is not the place to get it. He does mention his family quite often and famous friends too, but they are not the point of the book. They are sometimes illustrative of an argument he's trying to make, but this is not a biography. The subjects covered are those dealt with in speeches to a public audience, so he mostly skims the surface of private life.

If you read Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, I recommend the audio highly, because, hello, you can listen to Alan Alda. He has a unique and delightful voice, so immediately recognizable as him. He's a delight to listen to, and who better to tell his story than him?

Rating: 4/5

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watch M*A*S*H all the time. It's about the only television show that comes on regularly that I'm attached to, and I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode at least three times. :-) This looks like something to check out. Thanks for the warning about the politics; always good to know.

February 16, 2013 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Audra said...

I kind of can't stand MASH, at least, the few snippets I've seen on tv, but I do love Alan Alda -- he seems so adorable!

February 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love Alan Alda! I didn't realize that he wrote a memoir or this book. I'll have to add them to my wishlist :) I love M.A.S.H my father still watches it religiously. I used to have a crush on him as "Hawkeye" when I was in the pre-teen years!

February 16, 2013 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I've been meaning to read this one since it came out and I never seem to get around to it. I'm glad to hear it's as good as I thought it would be though. Alan Alda is just one of those celebrities I can't help but love. I hadn't thought of listening to the audio book, but now I think I'll have to.

February 16, 2013 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I need to sit down and watch the whole show from beginning to end. It's so good. I love all of the characters so much, and I love how much growth they have.

February 18, 2013 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Wahhhhhhh! I can't deal with that. MASH is made of magic.

February 18, 2013 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

He did! He's so cute. And opinionated. Oh man, I definitely had a crush on Hawkeye!

February 18, 2013 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

You should, because then you get to listen to Alan Alda for five hours, which is made of win.

February 18, 2013 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

This audiobook, Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself actually sounds quite interesting. I mean, his political leanings sound pretty close to mine. Plus, the narrative structure sounds unique and thus interesting. However, I've never actually really watched MASH (I know fail) so I probably won't listen to this one. HOWEVER, my coblogger is a fan, so I'll have to recommend this to her and point her in the direction of your review. Yay!

February 18, 2013 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

OMG, you should watch MASH. Like for sure. Also, I think you would totally fistbump him for his beliefs, because he's pro-women having rights and anti-bombs and shit. It's pretty great. Awesome that Alison loves him too!

February 18, 2013 at 3:19 PM  

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