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Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself Paperback – September 9, 2008
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The title of Alda's book alludes to the approach he adopted in trying to come up with an answer to that question. Alda dug up speeches he had delivered on various occasions over the years, talks which he'd attempted to infuse with some wisdom pertinent to the occasion. Many of these speeches were delivered at commencement ceremonies, but Alda also talked to historians at Monticello and to psychiatrists at Cornell. He spoke at a ceremony honoring Simon Wiesenthal. He delivered eulogies for Ozzie Davis and Peter Jennings and Anne Bancroft. He spoke over the grave of his grandchildren's dead rabbit.
Alda structures the book around excerpted passages from these speeches, but Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself is by no means wholly or even primarily a collection of excerpts. Rather, Alda uses the excerpts as writing prompts, wrapping stories from his life around them. In one chapter, for example, Alda excerpts passages from a talk he delivered at Emerson College in 1977 on the subject of living up to one's values. He seamlessly weaves a handful of stories around the quotes--the author being slapped as a four-year-old for off-color humor and upstaged by a quarterback a decade later; picket lines and cigarette ads and Bert Convy's heroics. As we saw in his first book, Alda has a smooth storytelling style that transports the reader. Once he begins on a reminiscence--traveling on the Orient Express, meeting his agent, biting his mother's watch--the pages turn themselves.
Insofar as they interrupt the flow of the narrative, Alda's excerpted speeches--if arguably the raison d'être of the book--are actually its weakest part. One feels less of a connection with the author when reading them, perhaps because we are not in fact their intended audience: he didn't write the speeches for us, after all, but for a specific audience on a specific occasion.
What, then, makes for a meaningful life? Alda has found his answer, and it's unlikely to surprise readers unless they're living the life of Lindsay Lohan. But arriving at the answer will surely not be the point for most of us. As in life, so with a good book: it's the going, not the getting there that's good.*
-- Debra Hamel
*Phrase borrowed from Harry Chapin's Greyhound.
In an excerpt from Alan Alda's commencement address at Eve's graduation, he talked about the need for people to question their "assumptions" because our assumptions are our windows through which we view the world...he also talked about the happiness found in existentialism because life is what you make of it. For those of you who have read the books of Barry Neil Kaufman, you will likely find a delightful synergy of outlook.
Most of one chapter is about Alda's fascination with Richard Feynman....the chapter is so intriguing that the next book I plan to read is about Richard Feynman. In the this book, you learn about Alan, but also about things that you didn't expect, like when Alan went in search of a greater understanding of Thomas Jefferson by talking to scientists in China. He reaches into the dark and pulls out something magnificent that nobody else would have found.
"Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself" starts you thinking about what you value and what excites you. As much as I loved "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed", I LOVE this new book even more! This book is clearly from Alan Alda's heart and it goes straight to the reader's heart...indeed, you may find your heart is much fuller; I did...I took the "random walk" and discovered an amazing peach! So, my advice to people considering reading this book is simply take a bite, embrace the richness of the flavor and delicious sensation as its juice spills in you and washes over you!