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Arnold Schwarzenegger has won more bodybuilding titles than anyone else in the world, including seven Mr. Olympia titles and three Mr. Universe titles. He has also won international fame as a movie superstar. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Maria Shriver, and their four children.
I was a big Schwarzenegger fan through my college years, up until the time of the most recent revelations about his relationship with his housekeeper. When I started reading this book last night, I was wondering if Arnold's ego would allow him to own up to his mistakes and, to a large extent, he does and I admire him for it. In many ways, this is the typical immigrant narrative about having a dream and working hard to achieve it. The stories of his early years growing up in post-war Europe stand out on account of what we would consider the abject poverty that he experienced, in a house with no running water or indoor plumbing. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of his early business efforts, selling ice cream by the lake in the summer and ditching school to panhandle (resulting in a substantial beating when his father found out). Arnold admits the mistakes he made, but he doesn't come across as being terribly repentant. He says he used steroids in his bodybuilding career because people didn't really know their dangers at the time. Later in the book, he details some of his womanizing, but I have the sense that he rationalizes his behavior to a certain extent. He seems sorry to have caused pain to his family but, as with all of his errors, seems almost comfortable in moving on with his life. In some ways, I think this ability to compartmentalize negative experiences and move forward is one of the attributes that makes him so successful. For me, the overriding lesson in this book was that someone with a plan, the ability to analyze experiences and the motivation to work hard can become successful in just about anything he or she seeks to do, in spite of a lack of money or connections.Read more ›
Schwarzenegger's new book isn't as bad as it could be. This is a decent autobiography, with plenty of memories and anecdotes. Like Arnold himself, the book is warm but so guarded I can't help but wonder what he's leaving out. This is not a racy tell-all. It is a not-bad account of an ambitious (but not remotely self-aware) man who has done a a fair amount of interesting things.
Arnold's most candid memories come early in the book, with his accounts of childhood in Austria during the early days of the Cold War. He tells of snuggling with his brother and parents in bed during thunderstorms, of their house with no toilet, of being beaten by parents and teachers alike. There is insight into his father's bitterness and the futility of surviving in a country trying to find its footing in the wake of the Third Reich. From a young age, Arnold saw America as a beacon of strength and safety, and bodybuilding as the path to lead him there. He boldly recalls being "absolutely certain" he was special. From a young age, Schwarzenegger was shameless in going after what he wanted: he panhandled money to go to the toy store and movies, went AWOL from the military for a bodybuilding contest, and picked fights for thrills. His concern seems first and foremost about getting caught, and even in hindsight he seems unconcerned as to what this all might say about his character. He unblinkingly describes steroids and women ("one of my girlfriends was a stripper and the other was a gypsy.") But he's also sure to mention his gratitude for the parental figures who nurtured him along the way.
In America, Arnold's cunning and determination bring success at bodybuilding, promotion, and various entrepreneurial endeavors.Read more ›
This is a fabulous story about a fabulous personality. Is it self-serving? Of course it is. Is it an honest portrayal about an American icon? How could it be, and do we as readers have a right to expect complete honesty in a book like this? The answer is probably not, the author is after all in the image making business. Since most of us have never met and will probably never meet the terminator, we only know of him through the media, and that in all instances is managed. Now we are given a 690 page narrative with pictures spread over 30 delicious chapters, and this reader feels it has been beautifully written, even if it isn't the whole deal.
First what are we dealing with here? This is an autobiography, so don't look for the reality of what this man's life and actions have truly been. You won't find it, nor do we probably have a right to find it, although there is still the expectation of candor. After all, an autobiography is an edited selection of the events of an individual's entire life. The author gets to portray himself however he wants to, putting in what he wants, how he wants, and leaving out what he doesn't want.
In this highly readable and fast going narrative, Arnold tells his story from his humble origins in Austria, to the dreams he gave himself growing up, and then the journey to America where he creates and fulfills a fantasy life that the rest of us can only maintain as a dream state. He talks about using steroids as a bodybuilder. He claims a lack of knowledge about them. Others in bodybuilding at the time knew the real deal, and knowledge was there if he had wanted it.
He is one of only three major bodybuilders to strike it rich through this profession.Read more ›