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Literature Review of “My Name Escapes Me” by Alec Guinness

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Alec Guinness writes My Name Escapes Me – The Diary of a Retiring Actor – inpurpose of documentation of his performance to commit his story to the publicrecord. In the diary, Alec Guinness, at 82, shows his wishes to spend hisdeclining years as, “a retiring actor”; he has not done with acting;he is still performing; yet retiring. This time his performance is committed towords in the commissioned diary. I see a diary as documentation of one’s life,especially when it is to be shown to public.

By definition, a document is aformal paper bearing important or official information. In the same sense,Alec Guinnesss diary is a document of his “act” of writing as PaulMatthew Pierre called. In addition, the facts that it is commissioned and isadmissionable to us, the public, that he is a public figure; and that it iscommemorating his people suggest Guinness’s intentions for his stories and hisperformances, in the diary to be for the public record. Writing is another wayof acting for Alec Guinness.

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His desire to perform is reluctantly replaced bywriting. Alec Guinness wishes to act again: “…if I am to retired, I am ininclined to assume a pained expression and deny it…. I doubt if any part,however small, would tempt me”. *P 10* He openly shows his regrets towardhis retirement forced by his senescent body: “I think the T.V unit hasfinished with me …it came home to me, almost savagely, that age has witheredmemory, alertness had taken …what talent was there.” *p 41*: “…mygranny will be thrilled.”*p 41* Also in the quotation, “…almostunrecognizable in the film. I like the ‘almost’, ” we see that he stillwants to be remained as a public figure. His love for acting and plays areall-transparent in the book. He consistently refers back to the plays he hasdone and read. He often expresses strong opinions about the plays and the actingbusiness: “… but I can’t help feeling an actor should be made of sternerstuff…. Than their ill report while you live. *p 19* Something like thisquotation is not in character for him because he has been very conscious ofmaking statements about other social issues. When he does make them, he does soindirectly that they could be interpreted in several different ways. These allimply that this old man desperately wants to act once more. Moreover, he findsanother way to remain in the acting business and in the public eye: “Thedifficulty is the chore of learning (I used to be reasonably reliable and fairlyquick, and diminishing physical vitality, both of which would choke anycreativity effort. So I am happy to scribble instead”. As we are readinghis scribbles, we are seeing the other part of him; the inner Alec Guinness. Heagain impersonates and creates a new character as he writes. What he writes isabout what he does and what he does identifies who he is. His actions arecommitted to his words. Also his writing is performance in a sense that he ispresenting himself in the book. He seems to be very conscious of expressing hisopinions and views on sensitive issues like gender, class system, and racialmatters as though hes overly awared of his audience. He was conscious of us,when writing this book. It was not his usual diary anymore. This man’s diarydescribed as, “…a small, strictly private almost, illegible series ofdaily jottings,” has been published as My Name Escapes Me, “beingfuller, quirkier and more haphazard and, to my regret, unavoidably selfrevealing”. *p 1* He could, in fact, write it in whatever way he wanted.

Maybe it is not himself that he is portraying. After all, he is an actor.

However he declares that it is his two years he is writing about, “I havebeen unable to disguise my phobias, irritations, prejudices (though the latterare often short lived) and my childishness and frivolity”. “…andwhen the show is over, or the day’s shoot, and he is once more Alec”:the show is over and he is once more Alec Guinness in this diary.

“…The show that previous other world where life has meaning, form andresolution, events perched accord or written rule”. The title, “MyName Escapes Me”, may be implying that his name, Alec Guinness, which thepublic remember it as when it has disguised itself with a new identity, is nothere in the book with the real Alec Guinness. He is presenting himself out sidethe film in normal life. Perhaps, he now wants us to remember him without theimages of his well-known name and face, appearing on the screen. Perhaps, thatis the reason that he is documenting himself as in realistically at hisretirement stage. However, in the same way that he has always disguised himselfin different personas to us, this again is a new Guinness to us, bringing outcuriosities. His familiar name also created mystique around the book; there islittle insight created by the title. Alec uses his title, his new nameeffectively reach out for publicity. He refers records of peoples deaths as”obituaries,” a formal announcement or report of a person’s death,often giving details of their life and work; “I had hoped to complete thisdiary with no further obituaries but that was not to be. Sometimes, somehow, Imust try to write something about Peter”. This quotation gives insightabout his character. He seems to want to write more personally on the topic ofhis death. However, his official documentation remains impersonal. He admitsthat this diary is formal official document. Again, his identity is immortalizedin the words he writes, in the same sense that his previous identities in thefilms have been immortalized on the screen. “…My mind ruminating onTuesday’s rehearsal…what seemed O.K. at the time…. It doesn’t getimmortalized on film until Monday week – time enough for me to get into my usualpanic”. *P37* I like the verb, “immortalize,”-giving everlasting fame,- here. He regards documentation of his experiences asimmortalization of his actions. Here he is immortalizing his friends in print:”Lord Howe of the Hirsel has died….” *p53* “Ten years ago todaymy mother died….”*p 104* “Peters death….” *p195* In orderto commemorate the births and deaths in his life, he leaves a record of them inthe diary. These records are important to him and are official in his world. Hehad many reasons to document this diary; one of them is to immortalize hisperformance in his world. In that sense, this diary is a documentation of hisprivate life. He depicts his world including people around him, the places hegoes to, and his thoughts, also immortalizing them in a print. His primaryinterests shown in the diary are not about current social issues or his previousmovies, but his life. As ones world goes around oneself, Guinnesss worldgoes around himself. He focuses on himself and his name more than anything elsein the book. While he focuses on his health, his plan, his home, and so on, hemakes brief notes about the war going on the other side of the world, becausethis diary is about documenting part of his life in which Guinness records hisofficial information. In a self conscious, restricted way, Guinness revealshimself to us in the documentary form of a diary. This is how he wants to beremembered by the public. However he is unable to escape his role as an actor.

This book seems to be written with the public in mind, but it does not revealany deep personal sides on the actor; he rather seems to be just identifyinghimself in the publics eyes at his retirement stage.

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Cite this Literature Review of “My Name Escapes Me” by Alec Guinness

Literature Review of “My Name Escapes Me” by Alec Guinness. (2019, Jan 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/alec-guinness/

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