Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Alan Alda

Language: English

Pages: 252

ISBN: 0812977521

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Picking up where his bestselling memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed left off–having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a mountaintop in Chile–beloved actor and acclaimed author Alan Alda offers an insightful and funny look at some 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?) Here, Alda listens in on things he’s heard himself saying 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 uniquely hilarious meditations on questions great and small.

Praise for Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

“Engagingly thoughtful and thought-provoking . . . [Alan Alda] candidly shares many stories of his life, so easily and wittily you can hear him speak as you read.”
Sydney Sun Herald

“Alda is chatty, easygoing and humble, rather like a Mr. Rogers for grownups. His words of inspiration would be a perfect gift for a college grad or for anyone facing major life changes.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Smart, engaged, funny and observant.”
San Antonio Express-News

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had clear ideas about what I thought was good material, and I thought this script was terrible. But my agent insisted; it would be good for my career, she said. I couldn’t understand how being in a lousy movie would be a career booster, and besides, the producer of The Apple Tree wanted fifty thousand dollars to let me out of the play for the three months it would take to shoot this pathetic thing. “That was what Richard Burton paid to get out of Camelot in order to do Cleopatra,” I told my

first draft of a script that I had spent months on, and a couple of weeks later, I would get it back with little marks at the margins. “What’s this mean?” I asked. “What?” “This ‘O.’ The letter ‘O’ in the margin. What does ‘O’ mean?” “That means omit.” That was it: omit. No explanation. No tender question, like “Do you really need this?” Just omit. I wanted to strangle him. But I called on patience and stuck it out. I might have left in a fit of righteous pique, the wounded author, but every

sadness and laughter, and then we took our places in a pew at the front of the great Gothic cathedral. One by one, Ossie’s friends got up to speak, except for Wynton Marsalis, who simply played his horn as he paced slowly at the front of the congregation. Then it was my turn. Ossie was my hero, and he still is. He was my friend, and I loved him for forty-four years. And the day he died, I had a reaction I’m sure many of us had—I didn’t believe it. Somehow, I had thought that his grace, his

curiosity. And as soon as she turned toward me, her entire affect became human and warm again. This happened two or three times during our talk, and each time the difference was startling. This was one of the main reasons the show was successful: We allowed scientists to speak in their own voices. They had the texture and temperature of humanity. They didn’t sound like gods from Olympus. They sounded like very, very smart humans. I think human warmth is vital in establishing instantaneous

meaningless. My dear friends, are you looking for meaning? Don’t do it. I’ve driven myself crazy with it. I have the distinct suspicion now that there is no hidden meaning to life. Looking for one is just our problem-solving brain chasing its tail—its long, lizardly, snake-brain tail. Whenever I’ve wanted some meaning, I’ve had to make it myself. It wasn’t included in the box from the store. Or, as it says on a plaque a friend gave me, “What if the hokey-pokey is really what it’s all about?”

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