Picks and Pans Review: My Name Escapes Me: the Diary of a Retiring Actor

updated 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Alec Guinness

Sly (if not spry) in this journal covering 18 recent months of his ninth decade, Sir Alec addresses the ravages of age with equanimity—from the loss of sight in his left eye ("I see nothing with it except vast black octopus tentacles slowly crawling over a dark red background") to the steady attrition of close friends ("My small world threatens to be underpopulated"). But life, on the whole, gets a glowing notice here, except for the inescapable force of Star Wars fans seeking autographs to go with their Obi-Wan Kenobi action figures: "I no longer have the energy to assist teenagers in their idiotic, albeit lucrative, hobby."

Guinness, who established his acting greatness (in films like Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Bridge on the River Kwai) long before he met Luke Skywalker, writes deftly and with the wisdom of a man twice his age. Just as his acting speaks volumes with a half nod or a slight widening of the eyes, so does this volume speak of simple acts—like going to church (he is a staunch Roman Catholic), reading Shakespeare or monitoring the erratic health of his beloved wife, Merula—with such understated elegance and gentle wit that we think: This is how a life ought to be lived. Even his pet peeves (being recognized in church, not being recognized at a dinner party) amuse; but then, in Guinness's hands, every semicolon looks like a sideways wink. (Viking, $23.95)

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