From Publishers Weekly
America's love affair with machine brutalism spills over into this somewhat smitten biography of its foremost icon. Leamer (The Kennedy Women
) chronicles Schwarzenegger's progress from bodybuilder to action-movie megastar, then California governor, visiting along the way his romance with Kennedy scion Maria Shriver and feud with rival Hollywood muscle-head Sylvester Stallone. It's a tale of relentless self-promotion: Schwarzenegger's fanatical weight-lifting routines are nothing compared with his grueling publicity marathons, including 94 puff-piece interviews in one day for Last Action Hero
. Leamer gives his subject a bombastically vain personality, then struggles to make it appealing. He celebrates Schwarzenegger's room-filling ebullience, his "emotional wisdom" and "agape." He discerns a "subtle, ironic distance" in Schwarzenegger's acting. And Leamer downplays Schwarzenegger's alleged habit of groping women, chalking it up to "signals" sent by women who secretly welcome his advances, a casual European attitude toward sex that is "frustrated and puzzled" by American "political correctness" and a fun-loving spirit that "moves toward whatever is most joyful and gives him pleasure." The author is less indulgent toward what he sees as Schwarzenegger's substance-free political campaigning and unwillingness to grapple with California's long-term budget crisis. His book is not fantastic, but it's well researched and moves along at a pleasantly robotic clip.
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What can one say about the outsized, often outrageous Arnold Schwarzenegger--tank driver, bodybuilding champion, action-movie megastar, and now governor of California--that he has not already boasted about himself? Let me tell you (as Arnold--on a first-name basis with everyone--might say), he is one of the most successful acts in the history of promotion. However, veteran celebrity biographer Leamer has a lot to say here that Arnold might not necessarily approve of, from his savvy in thriving in the movie industry to allegations about his boorish behavior with women. Although Schwarzenegger granted Leamer an interview, this is not an authorized work. Nor is it a wrecking ball of dishing. Coming after decades of books (Pumping Iron,
1974), muscle-magazine cover stories, and tabloid fodder about the superstar, it sorts through the pulp and the fiction on a search for the real Arnold and largely finds him. Part of his myth is that of the self-made man; while that is true of Arnold's later days, in his early years, he benefited from crucial patrons drawn to his sunny-skies ebullience, none more so than Joe Weider, publisher of bodybuilding magazines and the impetus behind Arnold's move to Los Angeles in 1968. Covering Arnold's competitions, movies, marriage to Maria Shriver, and electoral victory in 2003, Leamer skillfully sails between the idolaters and the iconoclasts, heading toward the multitude of readers interested in Arnold's character and life. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved