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A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, 1996-1998 Hardcover – October 1, 1999

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Alec Guinness begins his most recent memoir, a sort of sequel to his bestselling My Name Escapes Me, with what he calls an apology for a "ramshackle book": "It states it is a Journal and yet it doesn't quite aspire to that and it isn't a diary. Not many dates are to be found in it." What is in it are as charming a collection of memories, readings, observations, and anecdotes as could be imagined from an actor whose genius for self-effacement is legendary. Now in his 85th year, the celebrated Sir Alec has made a major contribution to a minor but much-loved literary form, the notebooks of an English gentleman. (It's no surprise to learn in these pages that Samuel Butler, author of The Way of All Flesh and his own published Notebooks, is one of Guinness's favorite authors.) Considering his age and virtual retirement, Guinness's life is an astonishingly active and full one, and for all the reminiscing, much of A Positively Final Appearance is taken up in describing his present-day doings with his beloved wife Merula (married 61 years), their dogs, and the occasional forays they make to visit friends and family. There are trips farther afield as well, to a spa in Baden-Baden and to films and theater, including a hilarious attempt to see the controversial West End hit Shopping and F***ing (with Guinness suggesting several substitutes for the supplied asterisks). His omnivorous reading is simply staggering, and a lifelong love affair with Shakespeare is evidenced not only by his memories of favorite performances but also his readings of scenes from the Bard, which reveal an imaginative scholarship infused with a lifetime's theatrical experience.

One of the strangest paradoxes of this superb actor (and equally fluent prose stylist) is that he seems destined to be remembered primarily for his becloaked performance in the original Star Wars trilogy as Obi-Wan Kenobi. There's a priceless story included about Guinness's encounter with a child who claimed to have seen the first film over 100 times, and the request he made of the boy: "Do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?" The result of this request, along with much else in this entirely captivating memoir, will amuse and delight. --John Longenbaugh

From Publishers Weekly

Erudite, droll and modest, this sequel to My Name Escapes Me, written in the form of a diary from the summer of 1996 through 1998, comprises the distinguished actor's celebrations of life's pleasures great (the solace of Catholicism; a loving marriage) and small (a good meal, a devoted pet). The opening description of a cataract operationAso successful that seeing the world "sharply and in full color" prompts the actor to "burst into happy tears"Ais typical of a book that acknowledges how powerful and how evanescent such pleasures can be. The book is shadowed with dark ruminations about the rise of germ warfare, the ethics of abortion and the arms race between Pakistan and India. At the same time, GuinnessAmarried for 60 years to a woman who drolly blames "the aggressiveness of Donald Duck" for all that is deplorable in Western civilizationArefuses to take himself too seriously, and the book can be ferociously quaint. Although his greatest fame came belatedly with his role in the Star Wars trilogy, Guinness is disdainful of the films' cultish appeal, calling them modest entertainments whose acolytes have lost themselves "in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities." He asks one favor of a 12-year-old boy who claims to have seen the film more than 100 times: "Do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?" Guinness describes his 1939 Romeo as "the worst... ever to disgrace our boards." Such puckish self-effacement comes easily to a man who thinks, upon seeing the Hale-Bopp cometAa spectacle "not even seen by Socrates, Christ, or Shakespeare"Athat it makes the hurly-burly of a British election year "no more than a tiny puff of dust." National publicity. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st American ed edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670888001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670888009
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on December 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Books like this are doubly rare, as they must meet two prerequisites at a minimum. Firstly the Author/Authoress must be in their ninth decade of life, and then they must have the talents at hand to write, and in the case of "A Positively Final Appearance", write deftly of a rich life without pretense or arrogance. Sir Alec Guiness is a legendary actor of stage and screen. Much to his chagrin the world seems to identify him almost exclusively as the Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobe of The Star Wars Middle Trilogy. In his previous book "My Name Escapes Me" he beat upon this topic almost to bitterness. This time around he shares his reasons why, and my thoughts of his being a curmudgeon are gone. While stating this is not a diary or journal, it is akin to the latter and covers the years 1996-1998. What makes this particular work triply rare is the Author's ability to take an event of seemingly little or no importance and connect it to a memory or 2 or 5 until it becomes a short story of it's own. These stories know no boundaries as Mr. Guiness takes the reader with him from thought to thought and from observation to random event. True there are chapters to the book, however if removed the experience would not be lessened. The title refers to a falsehood meant to lure patrons to a show which oftener than not, is many things but not a final appearance. Mr. Guiness shares thoughts on his religion, his reaction to the Death of Lady Dianna, his memorable meeting with Margaret Thatcher, and at least 100 other people of note. An omission I found very surprising was that he made no mention at all of Mother Teresa who died on the same day as Lady Dianna. I note this as he regularly speaks of the importance of his being a Catholic, with the regret that he did not become so earlier in his life.Read more ›
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on June 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Alec Guinness is undeniably one of the most gifted actors of our times, and now, with his offering of "A Positively Final Appearance," we get to know something of the man behind the mask. This journal, kept between the summer of `96, and 1998, is chock full of insightful musings, reminiscences and anecdotes that are a delight. He shares his love of the theater, discussing many of the plays he attended during this period, and gives comments on recent movies, as well. An avid reader, he talks enthusiastically of favorite authors and books; his love of literature is unmistakable. The stage is his first love, however, and he speaks fondly, and frankly, of many of the plays he's done, and of his experiences with many of the actors and directors with whom he has had the privilege of working. He invites you into his private life, discussing the love of his life, Merula, and discoursing on their life at home, as well as their many travels. You learn what the greatest regret of his life is, who some of the people are he admires most, and a few of whom he could do without. He explains his negative attitude toward the "Star Wars" phenomenon, and addresses many of the events, large and small, that have in some way affected his life, and helped mold his perspectives. His concern over world events and the human condition is poignantly evident. Guinness writes so fluently, you can almost hear that distinct, familiar voice; you seem to be listening, rather than reading. There is a dignity and charm to his words that reveal, to some degree, the man behind them.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ian Burley on February 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The journal of an extraordinary gentleman, one of the greatest actors ever to grace stage or screen. His reflections on his career are moving and perceptive, totally lacking in self-aggrandisement. His thoughts on the whole "Star Wars" phenomenon are particularly witty but smack of the desperation of being hounded by that film's fans. It's tragic that this great man may only be remembered by modern generations for his appearance in that opus instead of for his work in the Ealing comedies, "The Bridge on the River Kwai", his lengthy stage career and his magnificent turn on TV as George Smiley.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peter Canavan on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A very intelligent and well educated mind that expresses itself excellently in a very personal and likeable way. I have seen a lot, maybe most, of what Alec Guinness has done in film work. I particulary liked his George Smiley and the films he did in the fifties. I gather his way of getting to a character is to remove everything except what is essential to that character. I think this includes much of Alec Guinness! So, it is particularly interesting to find out what a good writer he is, what interesting and unexpected experiences he's had (e.g., "Don't touch it. It poison."), and what a wide range his knowledge encompasses. His conversion to Catholicism at mid-life I find particlary interesting, although he doesn't write much about that. I had read "Blessings in Disguise", which I thought was great. The writings from this journal add interesting details to the outline of the first book. I hope this second journal sells well and there is a third one!
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