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Review: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself By Alan Alda

Alan Alda was moved to write his book: “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself” as a means of answering a question. After nearly dying in a Chilean hospital in 2003, Alda began to wonder whether he had lived a meaningful life and to ask himself, more generally, what constitutes a meaningful life. 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.

He structures the book around excerpted passages from these speeches, but his book 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. As we saw in his first book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, 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.

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.


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My name's Peter Bryant, I come from Bakersfield, California. I was born in Seattle and have just started this blog in the summer of 2021.

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