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Publisher's Summary

In this insightful memoir, Oscar-winning actor Alan Arkin reflects back on finding his place as an actor and what theater—specifically the improvisational sort—has taught him about the craft and life.

Alan Arkin knew he was going to be an actor from the age of five. From this early age, he recognized that “every film I saw, every play, every piece of music fed an unquenchable need to turn myself into something other than what I was.”

An Improvised Life is Arkin’s wise and unpretentious recollection of the process, artistic and personal, of becoming an actor and a revealing look into the creative mind of one of the best practitioners on the stage and screen. Arkin, in a manner that is direct, down-to-earth, accessible, and articulate, reveals not just insights about himself but truths for the rest of us about our sense of self, our work, and our relationships with others.

©2011 Alan Arkin (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“[A] wealth of wisdom.” ( New York Post)

What listeners say about An Improvised Life

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Know Thyself

One thing I love about Allen Arkin is that he writes the way I think. This is refreshing and his approach to life would be an example of Socrates' epithet "know thyself.." He has a way to show his insights and how they improve his life. It is a fascinating window into his understanding and maturing. I couldn't put it down.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

An in depth examination of acting craft

I admire Alan Arkin as an actor immensely so I was very excited to listen to his memoir narrated by himself. Unfortunately I came away disappointed. Arkin comes across as a very serious man, seriously dedicated to the craft of acting. He gives away little about his personal life and his highs and lows and mainly discusses his professional career in sometimes boggling detail. If you are an aspiring actor this memoir will give you incredible insights into the work required to hone the craft. If you are not an aspiring actor but looking for an entertaining memoir then you might find this somewhat disappointing. Arkin provides almost no anecdotes regarding the many movies he's made and the many actors he's worked with. He does provide blueprints for how to be seriously obsessed with being the best actor you can be.

12 people found this helpful

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Considering a life in the arts

A considered journey within by a true artist who dug and found, or digs and finds, and remains open to more digs. A lesson on remaining interested.

2 people found this helpful

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Worth every minute.

I enjoyed it fully. It brought me a lot of clarity. Thank you so much.

2 people found this helpful

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Simply lovely

I didn’t know what to expect when I started listening to this. I have enjoyed his work for many years. This book made me think. This book made me feel. I think I will be a better improviser after listening to it. Perhaps a better human being.

1 person found this helpful

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  • E
  • 02-28-21

Great stuff

Surprisingly insightful! Will listen again for sure. Came away with a refreshed perspective on improv, entertainment, and how to live a "good" life

1 person found this helpful

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Great memoir

Good life advice
I totally enjoyed it
Eight more words required
Ironic that’s only four

1 person found this helpful

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  • BC
  • 08-28-21

Interesting

Never really considered myself an Alan Arkin fan, but he does have some appeal as an actor. The book is more than just an autobiography, and while it’s not a guide to acting, it does provide some insight in how to become better, at acting and life.

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Actor shares his experiences of self-discovery

I like Alan Arkin. Of the movies and other performances I’ve seen him in I enjoy his dry delivery and sense of humor. However several hours of just him speaking even in small intervals it’s not something I really enjoyed that much.

His story is interesting and I appreciate him delving into his background as well as his journey of self discovery. I think it was very intriguing to learn more about his acting career and how it influenced his search for meaning and understanding. Many people who are successful have no interest in going down this path. However he was and was willing to share it. So that was my most enjoyable part of listening to this audible recording.

However, his delivery is monotone. You know that going into listening to it, and yet it did get in the way of him telling his story. This is particularly true when he delivers so many run-on sentences and his inflections don’t match what he’s actually reading or speaking about. I’m somewhat surprised that he didn’t self critique, or have his wife or somebody listen to the recording before it was approved. I would’ve given the performance higher marks understanding who was speaking. I know his delivery style, but this is frankly very distracting and somewhat ironic considering various points of the book he is very critical of various people and things that seem to be either somewhat inconsequential. Here’s something that’s consequential. It’s him, it has his name on it, it’s his story, and yet this was his way of delivering on that. It’s underwhelming and and somewhat disappointing to hear his final work product.

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This guy really surprised me.

Of course Alan Arkin is one of the greats - if he had ONLY done The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (or 5 other movies I could name) - it would be enough... but no.
He has written two memoirs that are actually wonderful. He is deep, caring, honest and relatively modest. His style is direct and engaging. Alan is insightful, wistful & kind.
This memoir focuses on his acting & directing & his work with improv sessions. Not something that I was itching to read about BUT I had already read his other memoir and I knew I was going to like this one. And I did, ah, do.
It made an othewise tedious drive from Raleigh NC to Baltimore MD (almost) a joy!
The one negative for me is that his normal speaking voice is a bit more nasal/NY than I like... he does some quick impressions of others that are quite good so I know he doesn't have to 'nasal it' so much, but you learn to live with it.
I was particulary taken with Mr. Arkin's continuibn efforts to find lessons and truths in all of his experiences.. It is the flair that makes him relatable. It isn't like someone claiming insights but like a friend you just met sharing his insightful experiences with you... Not so much that he is talking TO you but almost as if he is having a conversation with you.
Long/short - I really enjoyed this and will go for any future memoirs from this talented and really nice man.

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  • Ellie
  • 08-17-21

A pleasant listen

I love Alan’s voice so this was always going to be a pleasant listen but I’m always hoping for some take away wisdom which I didn’t really get much of in this book. Alan talks about his time with improv in different contexts