Thursday Book Feature: MASH

This is a new feature I’m trying. I may not have a book to share every week, but when I do, it’ll go live Thursday. This should give you plenty of time to find a good read to get you through the weekend.


MASH: A Novel about Three Army Doctors

By Richard Hooker

Copyright 1996.


Before the movie and television series, this novel introduced such characters as Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Radar O’Reilly, and Hot Lips Houlihan. In 1951 during the Korean War, Hawkeye and another doctor named Duke are assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Trapper John soon joins them, and the three live together in a tent they call the swamp, drinking and raising hell when they’re not operating on injured soldiers. Their excellent surgical skills improve the quality of care at MASH 4077.

According to the author, many doctors working in such hospitals were well trained but too young for the job. As a result, some broke down. Others, like Hawkeye, Duke, and Trapper, let off steam by drinking, engaging in sexual escapades, and pulling stunts. In the book, they sell photos of Trapper with a long beard and hair, passing him off as Christ, to raise money to send a Korean house boy to college in the U.S. They pretend to have flipped their lids in order to be sent to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation, then spend their time in a brothel instead. They play in a corrupt football game with a team from another hospital.

This book was an Audible daily deal, and having once been a MASH fan in college, I snatched it up. I saw the movie years ago but don’t remember it as much as the TV series. I noticed many differences between that and the book.

For example, Frank Burns, a captain in the book, is a major in the TV series. In the book, Hawkeye is married, but Trapper is not. On TV, it’s the opposite. In the book, Col. Blake is a completely different character, and Col. Potter, B.J. Honeycut, Major Winchester, and Corporal Clinger don’t exist. The book portrays the 4077th MASH as having more doctors than the four in the television series.

Despite these differences, I enjoyed reading the book, laughing at all the doctors’ antics like I did when I saw them on television. It would have been really cool if it were read by Alan Alda, the actor who portrayed Hawkeye in the TV series, but the Audible narrator did a pretty good job of portraying each character. I like the way this book shows us the horrors of war but emphasizes the idea that in order to get through tough times, you have to have a sense of humor.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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Talking to Myself

I talk to myself all the time. When my husband Bill was alive before his strokes, it drove him nuts. After his strokes, he said he liked it because he could always tell what I was doing. When you can’t see, walk, or use your left arm or leg, hearing your significant other chatter about nothing can be reassuring, I suppose.

That’s not what this post is about, though. I just finished reading Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda, the actor who portrayed Hawkeye on MASH, one of my favorite television shows during the 1980’s. This book is a collection of humorous essays on a variety of topics including his childhood, army life, acting experiences on stage and screen, and what it’s like to be a celebrity. In one piece, he explains how his father encouraged him to consider a career in medicine, although he really wanted to be an actor, and then talks about a commencement address he gave to a class of graduating medical students. In another, he describes how he learned to shoot with a rifle at age eleven, used it to euthanize his pet rabbits, then helped his grandchildren bury their pet rabbit after showing them how to make telephones out of old shoes. Most of his essays contain speeches he gave at various commencement ceremonies. His final piece is an address he would give if he were on his death bed in which he urges graduates to “go forth and stay there.” Alan Alda was born on January 28th, 1936 in New York City. His original name was Alfonso Joseph D’abruzzo. He’s known for his work on MASH, The Aviator, and What Women Want. He married Arlene Alda on March 15, 1957. They have three daughters: Eve, Elizabeth, and Beatrice.

Did you know that Alan Alda almost turned down the offer to star on MASH because he didn’t like the idea of using war as a backdrop for humor? He then agreed but insisted that each episode have at least one scene in the operating room to show the ravages of war. He studied at Fordham University in New York where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956. He also attended the Sorbonne in Paris during his junior year. In the army, he went AWOL every weekend because he was dating the woman he eventually married. He was selected as the most believable actor in the U.S. and did a cartwheel down the aisle on his way to accept an award. To learn more, visit / .

Alan Alda is like his character on MASH. Although Hawkeye cracks under pressure a few times, he takes life in stride, tells a joke or two, and goes on. Sometimes, I wish I could do the same. I recommend this book to anyone needing a few laughs.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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