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MY NAME ESCAPES ME by Alec Guinness


The Diary of a Retiring Actor

by Alec Guinness

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-87589-9
Publisher: Viking

An amiable if unsurprising daily diary (covering all of 1995 and half of 1996) from the great British thespian. Now in his 80s and almost completely retired from stage and screen, Guinness (Blessings in Disguise, 1986) seems content to go gently into that good night. His days are pleasantly routine; he reads the morning papers, feeds the fish in his pond, walks with his dogs, and enjoys the occasional jaunt into London. After the cocktail hour and a hearty supper, he curls up with a good book or a BBC documentary on the telly. Occasionally he takes a flutter on the national lottery, hoping to hit it big and go on an art-buying spree. But the greatest excitement is provided by brief holidays on the continent. It's all very, very British, and undemanding anglophiles will find much to revel in here. On the evidence of the diary, it's clear that Guinness would make an admirable, extremely genial dinner guest, charming, intellectually curious, with a nice supply of mildly amusing anecdotes. But the general effect here is as comfortably worn as an old pair of slippers. Age is the great enemy of actors—it destroys the crucial ability to remember their lines, reducing them to smaller and smaller roles. This, and diminished energies, are why Guinness now rejects almost all the offers that come his way. Whether it's British phlegm or stoicism or both, he calmly suffers the many insults and indignities of his aging body—his blind eye, his diminished hearing, etc. In contrast to the memoirs of many American actors, there is little egocentrism and a great deal of intelligence and aesthetic sensitivity here, as well as a keenly literate style. Guinness truly enjoys good books, music, and art, and he remains an active playgoer. His diary may not make for gripping material, but it does seem to suggest an ideal way to spend one's retirement.