The show M*A*S*H is among my top five favorite TV shows, so naturally I started searching for books written by the cast. I wanted to get to know the actors better. This is how I stumbled upon Gary Burghoff’s (who played Radar O’Reilly) delightful memoir, To M*A*S*H and Back: My Life in Poems and Songs (That Nobody Wanted To Publish). I read through this book in about two or three sittings. It’s a quick and very enjoyable read. I found myself truly impressed with not only Burghoff’s impressive and well-rounded life, but also the intelligent, humble, and witty way in which he writes about it.
I learned a great deal about the man behind the beloved, bespectacled M*A*S*H character. Gary Burghoff was a trained stage actor and jazz musician. His claim to fame was actually the originating role of Charlie Brown on stage in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. On top of that, Burghoff is a poet, a songwriter, an inventor, a wildlife artist, an environmentalist, and as of the writing of this book, a writer. Pretty impressive, eh?
To M*A*S*H and Back is well paced, delightfully honest, and generally cuts to the point of things without too much fluff. Each chapter opens with a poem or a song that Burghoff wrote, which sets the theme/mood for that chapter. I was impressed with Burghoff’s honesty and willingness to show his vulnerability and own his mistakes. Not many men (or people in general) are willing to do so in such a public way. I was also impressed with how Gary spoke about the people in his life, even those that did him wrong, he handled the retelling with dignity and grace.
One fact that interested me as I read through this wonderful memoir was the fact that Burghoff is a Christian. I appreciated his candor and openness in discussing his spiritual/faith journey, his struggles with coming to know and understand God, and all that it entailed. The man is a true inspiration, with a resilient yet kind spirit, Burghoff is even more lovable than his onscreen character, Radar. Honest, witty, humorous, and well worded, I highly recommend this memoir.
I give it an 8/10.
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....