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Climbing the Mountain Hardcover – September 23, 1997
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Born Issur Danielovich to a poor family in Amsterdam, New York, Kirk Douglas changed his name and identity, rocketing to fame as one of Hollywood's great macho actors. But in the 1990s, the eighth decade of his life, Douglas was transformed by a number of tragic incidents that forced him to heed the voice of little Issur that still resided within him. This frank, smoothly written autobiography, which somehow manages to be warmhearted, pompous, and moving all at the same time, picks up where The Ragman's Son, Douglas's earlier memoir, left off. In Climbing the Mountain the actor turned philosopher talks about the helicopter accident that killed two younger men while leaving him alive, the death of his friend Burt Lancaster, and the debilitating effects of a minor stroke. All of these incidents caused him to reevaluate his life, to acknowledge the voice and integrity of the Issur Danielovich he left behind, and to return to the Jewish faith. Climbing the Mountain is the book of a real survivor, a man walking the path of old age with dignity, thoughtfulness, and humor.
After surviving, at age 74, an air crash in which two much younger men died, Douglas, now 80, was driven to discover the meaning of life. His subsequent search led him back to Judaism, the religion he had given up at age 14 when he decided he wanted to be an actor, not a rabbi. His account of that search is not particularly focused, nor is it exhortatively inspirational, in the manner of born-again Christian testimonials. Actually, it is very much a sequel to his best-selling autobiography, The Ragman's Son (1988). Loaded with anecdotes (none of them, alas, all that affecting), it is chatty to a fault and full of an ego as big as the epic fifties and sixties movies he so memorably starred in. Yet that ego is not vain, and so Douglas reports--blandly, with no self-congratulatory magnanimity--the bigger digs directed at him, such as his wife Anne's rejoinder to his announced intention to be humble and modest when receiving the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' lifetime achievement award: "That's a role you can't play." He can play earnestness, though, and his paeans to his rediscovered faith are principled and heartfelt, if not noticeably brainy. Ray Olson
Top customer reviews
I quickly read it before giving it (don't judge me), and found that not only could he write,
but I could relate to the quest for spirituality as we age. I also came from a Jewish background
and have only recently latched on to some of it.