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Book Review: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

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Second generation actor Alan Alda shows there’s more to him than being a celebrity. If you’re looking for a kiss ‘n tell kind of book, keep looking as you won’t find it here. Though for a brief moment, he does get a little “Hollywood-esque” and lists the women he has kissed in his career. Instead, the book takes readers on a trip through Alda’s life beginning with his childhood winding its way through M*A*S*H to his work on West Wing. M*A*S*H is covered in only a fraction of the book.

Alda writes about his relationship with his mother who had a mental illness, something unspoken of in the past. He shares stories of standing in the wings watching his father perform on stage and eventually sharing the spotlight with him. His life before M*A*S*H is hardly different from any actor struggling to succeed though his being Robert Alda’s progeny helped a little. However, his success is ultimately his own, not of his father’s.

He tells how he met his wife of over 45 years and what life was like for his family, which includes three daughters. Life has not always been cushy for the actor as he contracted polio, pinched pennies, came close to death a couple of times on stage and was hospitalized in Chile due to the blockage and strangulation of his intestines.

The book’s unusual title comes from what happened to his dog after he died and why he wouldn’t take a pet to a taxidermist again. He discusses how he works to improve his acting skills thereby demonstrating his love for his profession.

This is an actor who has a mind and uses it. He describes his obsession with systems and how he came up with one for betting on horses. His hosting Scientific American Frontiers is no shock after reading about his experience with logic class, connecting Greek comedies with burlesque, and speaking to legislators.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned is an honest and thought-provoking book that follows this actor’s life, during both good and bad times, and his intellectual pursuits. Anyone who reads this profound book without preconceived notions will learn a few things about life in general and not just about the actor’s life, which is uncharacteristic of a Hollywood autobiography. With humor and a warm-hearted writing style, Alda grabs readers from page one and easily carries them through the end.

Meryl had two dogs, one a black lab / Irish setter mix named Midnight Cowboy (not after the movie) and another a beagle named B. Dodger as in Brooklyn. Neither were stuffed, thankfully.

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.