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Even This I Get to Experience Paperback – October 27, 2015
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The Wall Street Journal:
“The Norman Lear who emerges from “Even This I Get to Experience” is engaging and unpompous, an amusing storyteller who pokes fun at himself and writes with brutal honesty about his life, especially his childhood. And what a story!"
“An entertaining, penetrating celebration of a richly lived life.”
Los Angeles Times:
“Immensely likeable…[Lear] isn't always a mensch in "Even This I Get to Experience" (italics, characteristically, his), but at least he can write like one…. In this city, Norman Lear and his post-coaxial contemporaries built a mass medium with their bare hands. On good days — as Lear well recalls, and recalls well — they made it sing. If only more with their talent had lived so long; if only more who live so long had his talent.”
“This is, flat out, one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written… An absolute treasure.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred):
"A TV titan on his memorable life and storied career. Lear, best known as the creative mind behind such classic comedies as All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Good Times, recounts his extraordinarily eventful life with his signature wit and irreverence. The result is not just a vividly observed and evocative portrait of a long life, but also a fascinating backstage look at the evolution of the American entertainment industry... Lear writes movingly of his service in World War II, his difficult upbringing and subsequent troubled marriages, and his commitment to liberal causes, evidenced by his founding of the advocacy organization People for the American Way and his purchase of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. That he makes these subjects as engrossing and entertaining as his Hollywood reminiscences speaks to Lear's mastery of storytelling and humor. A big-hearted, richly detailed chronicle of comedy, commitment and a long life lived fully."
“[A] feisty, thoughtful autobiography… Lear pens sharply observed studies of the creative process on his many iconic productions and bares plenty of raucous, sometimes bawdy anecdotes—readers get to experience a nude and lewd Jerry Lewis… [I]n keeping with the bigoted, mouthy, complex and loveable characters he created, Lear's knack for sizing up a flawed humanity makes for an absorbing read.”
President William J. Clinton
“That Norman Lear can find humor in life’s darkest moments is no surprise—it’s the reason he’s been so successful throughout his more than nine decades on earth, and why Americans have relied on his wit and wisdom for more than six. It’s also why EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is such a great read.”
“Norman Lear could never write a more dramatic, touching, or funnier tale of his life than he’s done here in EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE.”
“Many have known the Man behind the stories. Now all of us can know the stories behind the Man. Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Meathead couldn’t have told them better!”
“EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is not just the brilliant, moving story of a man who has lived an amazing number of lives—from making it onto Richard Nixon’s ‘Enemies List’ to changing the face of television—but also a life manual on how to live a life of depth, purpose, and meaning.”
“Norman Lear is a hero and a friend . . . he experienced so much in his life . . . sometimes I just want to sit down and ask him questions about life and his perspective . . . to do it right it would take years of interviews . . . but now that he wrote this book I can experience his journey and wisdom over and over again.”
“Fantastic stories from one of the wisest, most subversive, and most beautiful human beings the comedy world has ever known. Like the man himself, this book is charming, awe-inspiring, and hilarious.”
About the Author
Norman Lear is the television producer of such groundbreaking sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. He has received four Emmy awards, a Peabody, and the National Medal of Arts. As an activist, he founded People For the American Way. He lives in Los Angeles. Most recently, Mr. Lear is the subject of the PBS American Masters episode, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, premiering 10/25/16.
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I enjoyed, in the first part of the book, reading about the weirdness of his family, and his feelings at the time. He was tenacious and funny in overcoming many obstacles to follow his dreams. I was rooting for that engaging kid.
However, at a certain point in the book, after he became successful, my interest flagged a bit, because now it's just a chronology of his continuing successes. He wrote this script, hired these people, bonded with those people, etc. What made this otherwise placid section interesting was his revelations about the personalities of the actors and famous people he worked with, like Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Carroll O'Connor, Bea Arthur, and Jean Stapleton.
One of the most interesting parts was about All in the Family, and Lear's other creations of the time; it was groundbreaking TV and there were so many obstacles. Getting past the purity police, for example; or the way some of the actors began to drink their own Kool-Aid and take on a mission within their fictional role, making it harder to get them to play their parts.
What I was less enthralled with was the fact that, for me (although others may disagree), Lear wasn't highly introspective. He says, toward the end of the book, that he lacked emotional intelligence, but even then, he didn't go much of anywhere with it. One reason I bought the book - hardcover, yet! - was to learn what a brilliant 92-year-old might have to say about growing older.
Although Norman Lear wasn't sufficiently articulate on this point, everything about this book is inspiring. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He's self-deprecating if unreconstructed. He's tears-rolling-down-the-face patriotic. And by finding another gear at 70, he demonstrates the power of not letting oneself be defined by external forces.
So, ultimately, I was able to take away from my reading two things: an enjoyable read and a sense of empowerment. Well worth my money and time. Norman Lear is an American treasure, and I'm glad he took the time to write this book.
Finally we get to read his autobiography. He could easily written volumes of his life and his work. If I have some criticism, I wished he focused on his famous sitcoms behind the scenes. "Good Times" was stellar until James Sr. was killed off after the fourth season. I wished Lear listened to the cast about their concerns. "All in the Family" series takes center stage about coming on television and possible backlash against the new series. To everybody's shock and surprise, the series became a ratings hit and changed television forever. Lear himself became a sensation. The series spun several successful spinoffs like "Maude" and "The Jeffersons." Even the "Maude" spinoff creating another spinoff, "Good Times." He also produced "One Day at a Time."
Lear's professional and personal life is covered well here but I would have liked to know more about my favorite sitcoms. He was right about when "All in the Family" series should have ended. It was never the same after Mike, Gloria, and Joey moved to California.
Lear has outlived those who became stars like Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Conrad Bain, Sherman Helmsley, Isabel Sanford, Paul Benedict, Zara Cully, Roxie Roker, Franklin Cover, Mike Evans, Esther Rolle, Bonnie Franklin, and more.
Norman Lear had an amazing life and he was lucky to experience it all. He casted experienced stage performers from the theatre and that made a huge difference in the series success.