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My Name Escapes Me by Alec Guinness

My Name Escapes Me (1996)

by Alec Guinness

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The Oscar-winning actor's diary from January 1995 through June of 1996. This guy knew how to live. Guinness turned 82 years old while keeping this diary (he kept a diary for over 30 years), lost sight in one eye, experienced significant hearing loss, was mostly retired, and did more in a month than most people do in a year. The reader is treated to his views of society, food, his adherence to his Catholic faith, his hopes of winning the National Lottery, worry about his forgetfulness that made learning lines increasingly difficult, and his complaining about junk mail and illness. He is self-conscious about speaking to an audience and often beats himself up for what he perceives to be a poor speech or performance.
He is also the person art is made for, as his mood is elevated considerably by beautiful music, an enjoyable play or a though-provoking painting, and he attends the theater or new exhibits at an enviable rate, while also finding time to dine in famous restaurants with other famous actors and writers. He's funny, yet fears he's a bore:

...Shakespeare in Henry V, has a brief phrase, "Old men forget". It is horribly true, as every old person knows, but what would be even more disturbing would be "Old men remember!", for once they start remembering how the hell do you put a stop to them? And by 'them' I mean me.

I found so much in this little book. He'd discuss actors, artwork or a sonata by Beethoven with such admiration that I had to look them up immediately. He loved books, and shopped for them in London bookstores often (his favorites were Patrick O' Brian, Shakespeare, John Updike and Montaigne) while admitting shame at his slowness in reading, as he couldn't stop himself from acting out favorite scenes. ( )
  mstrust | Feb 24, 2017 |
Its a diary, kept for 18 months roughly, from January 1995 to June 1996; an interesting follow up to his own autobiography written in the 80s (this was written about 10 years later). He writes really well; very descriptive and not without wit - he's very funny without trying for laughs, if that makes sense.

Its clear he's only letting readers know a bit about him, but its entertaining - just whatever he's doing or thinking each day which often leads back to stories from years gone by. He's over 80 at the time of writing and its clear he's feeling his age a bit. He notes with some sadness, the friends that have died during the writing of the diary - indeed, the last week of the book sees another friend of over 50 years pass away unexpectedly.

I think he comes across as not being entirely happy with his lot in life - his biographies say as much. But that said, its not a morose book - his musings on various things good and bad is entertaining and readable, even when he's having a grumble about something. His description of his holiday in Italy towards the end of the book is so entertaininly detailed and descriptive one almost feels we are there observing it happening. ( )
  Flip_Martian | Aug 28, 2016 |
Guinness was one of the greatest stage actors of England, yet it was his chameleon work in cinema that really made him a beloved figure. Whether it was Bridge On The River Kwai, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Scrooge, or even Star Wars, Mr. Guinness was a delight on the screen.

This book was a must-buy after I plowed through his delightful memoir, "Blessings In Disguise". He is eloquent and a fan of the simple life, although it would not be so simple for the rest of us. He writes with a twinkle in his eye, and he displays that particular temperament so becoming to the civil English gentleman.

I saw him perfom in London in A Walk In The Woods, which turned out to be his last stage performance. He passed away in 2000, and his wife followed him, loyal as ever, just two months later.

"Made glorious summer by this sun of York"

Book Season = Autumn ( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
If your only acquaintance with Sir Alec Guinness runs to the Star Wars movies or George Smiley, do yourself a favour and pick up this collection of diaries. Fans of Smiley will be immediately charmed by the preface, written by none other than John le Carré. The diaries themselves are also a treat to read. Covering approximately 18 months, from New Year's Day 1995 to June 1996, Sir Alec gives us little snippets of what he's thinking about. Current events, reminiscences about old friends, daily life with his wife, Merula -- all are discussed with elegant writing and quiet, self-deprecating humour. The collection is a bit bittersweet in places because he is at the age where funerals are becoming the main social outing, one friend or another passing away. And as friends pass away, whoever's left is falling apart; Sir Alec frequently mentions "the tiresomeness of old age" that prevents him and Merula from getting out and about like they used to.

The real treat in this diary for me was seeing just how much of an avid reader Sir Alec was. Of course I shouldn't be too surprised that a member of "the older generation" preferred reading as his primary entertainment, but his descriptions of what he was reading and the reading experience in general consistently made me smile. At one point he is reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series: having enjoyed the third one he's read (out of order, thus somewhat vindicating me in my series reading habits), he states his determination to "climb up the rigging" of all of them. And really, how can anyone resist a man who says that "One of the nice things about feeling rotten is having a good excuse to stay tucked up in bed with an entertaining book"?

Reading this collection gives one a glimpse of just how wonderful it must have been to be a friend of such a great actor. I will be seeking out his other autobiographical writings very soon! ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 17, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
What, specifically, makes us love Sir Alec? Well, first that he does not seem to be all that different from us, coming across more ordinary-human than most leading men. And yet he isn't like us, this thrilling chameleon with a hundred different faces, a hundred far-flung personalities, some of them even female. We feel in and behind his vastly different roles a powerful intelligence: an actor who can do drama and farce, history and tragedy, frivolity and heartbreak with equal assurance, and who can write his own adaptations, as he did for ''The Brothers Karamazov,'' in which he played Mitya. This is a thinking man's actor; those who saw his Fool in ''King Lear'' describe him as the most philosophical Fool of all. His autobiography, ''Blessings in Disguise,'' is extremely well written, and now we get this splendidly idiosyncratic journal from Jan. 1, 1995, to June 6, 1996.
added by John_Vaughan | editN Y Times, JOHN SIMON (Aug 23, 1997)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140257233, Paperback)

From New Year's Day 1995 to June 1996, Alec Guinness kept diaries in which he recorded not only day-to-day events, but also a range of memories, views and musings. Certain pre-occupations recur: theatre and film, books and paintings; the Church; food and drink and the delights of home and family. Friendship is also central to Sir Alec's life, and his friendship with Alan Bennett, Jill Balcon, Lauren Bacall and Barry Humphries, among others, forms the backbone of these wonderfully amusing diaries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:57 -0400)

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Biography of Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken discussing his childhood, his minor league career, his years in the major leagues, and his 2,131 consecutive game that broke Lou Gehrig's record.

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