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Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook, CD
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About the Author
Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. Before that, he had a long career, starring in such films as the Terminator series; Stay Hungry; Twins; Predator; and Junior. His first book, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, was a bestseller when published in 1977 and, along with his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, has never been out of print since.
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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. Some readers will think these parts are funny, like when he learned to lie about his zodiac signs to pick up girls and outwitted a competitor in a bodybuilding competition by working the crowd. When he gets into film and politics, the story becomes more scripted. He's a Republican because he sees this as the embodiment of the American Dream and views Democrats as "too Austrian." He can be genuinely egalitarian -- like openly promoting women in bodybuilding -- but also totally doesn't get it, like his approach to filming a violent scene with a woman. There are lots of conversations with Sargent Shriver and George H.W. Bush (who, he'll have us know, was NOT a "waschlappen" - the Austrian word for "wet dishrag.") He describes mentors including Milton and Rose Friedman, James Earl Jones, Marvin Hier, and Andy Warhol. I'm not a film buff but I was interested in all the moviemaking, especially his work with James Cameron on the Terminator films. He might be at his best with inadvertent observations, like an overheard argument about race between Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones. For political fans, the section on his campaign and work as Governor of California are as straightforward as a press release but include a fair amount of detail about the political process. To his credit, he does try to explain why his policies, which can seem inconsistent, align with his goals and ideals.
Of course, the object of his affection is Maria Shriver: the savvy, beautiful, energetic woman whose world was "big enough" for him even as she brought him a much-needed dose of common sense. He has only nice things to say about Maria (this also keeps him from being more candid about the Kennedy Family, which is our loss). He compares their marriage to Joe and Rose Kennedy. He recounts all the details of his marriage proposal (at his childhood swimming hole in Austria). His affection gets so heavy-handed it sounds desperate (when their first baby was born, the "nurse showed us how to breastfeed" . . . . and: "of course I was in heaven when Eunice or Sarge would come stay with us.") He adores Maria, but he also adores cars, and it's hard not to notice that he describes his first customized Humvee with the same gushing voice he uses for his wife. Although, in fairness, his tenderness toward his young children is undeniable.
So we have to assume that this book is intended as some kind of public love letter to beg her forgiveness and try to win her back. When I found myself wondering why Shriver filed for divorce instead of trying to work it out, I realized I couldn't possibly know the whole story - perhaps I had been charmed myself, because he's obviously left out so much. I wouldn't be surprised if even Arnold doesn't understand. I suspect his downfall in marriage had a lot to do with his failure to understand his own carelessness -- what in the Austrian military he called being "catastrophe-prone" -- his ultimate lack of humility, his concern with getting caught instead of doing the right thing.
In the end, the book does have some unwitting insights, although most of them are between the lines. Fans of Schwarzenegger's politics or films will find a lot here to entertain them. For me it was mildly interesting, but in the end this is not a person -- or a book -- I need in my life after I finish the final page.
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. The other two are Steve Reeves, an extremely handsome man who went onto fame as Hercules in Hollywood. There was also Reg Park, another fabulous athlete who adorned Arnold's bedroom walls while he was growing up. Schwarzenegger mentions both of them on page 30 of the book but certainly does not give enough credit to them as the role models and the revolutionaries they were, that allowed him to stand on their shoulders and take bodybuilding so much higher than it had ever been before.
After winning Mr. Universe which is thoroughly covered in Chapter 4, the author talks about calling up Reg Park in South Africa and reminding him that Park had invited him to South Africa if and when Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Universe contest. Park was as good as his word, sending the young bodybuilder a ticket. Arnold spent several weeks with Park and his family and it was probably here that he realized his dreams as a child could be turned into realities. He saw a family life he never had, and success that he thought could be but had never seen a model for it before. He now had the model which was crucial to his attempt to make a reality out of the dream.
He put a plan into his own mind at that point. It included America, bigger things in bodybuilding, Hollywood, a family, wealth, and eventually politics. The rest of the book, some 550 pages more is the story of each aspect of his plan meticulously played out before our eyes. It all began with the model. It is always the revolutionary that matters, the first to do something is always excruciatingly difficult and for most seems impossible which is why it remains unfulfilled for so many years.
It took 2000 years for the first runner to run the four minute mile, than within 15 month, 12 others did it. Arnold had the model in Reg Park and Steve Reeves, but it was to his credit that he took the reality to such a much higher plane than anybody had ever thought possible.
Throughout the book you will laugh, you will reflect, and you will marvel that the American dream is still alive and worthwhile. Some people will be of the opinion that all it takes is a dream and access to America and yes it can all come through, if you simply work hard. In the book that appears to be the conclusion that Arnold draws for his own life (more about this later). The following chapters are glittering, enticing and very entertaining aspects of this philosophy.
* Chapter 10 - Stay Hungry
* Chapter 14 - What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger
* Chapter 18 - Comic Timing
* Chapter 26 - The Comeback
* Chapter 30 - Arnold's Rules
You the reader must come to your own conclusions as to how much of the book is disingenuous and self-serving and perhaps an attempt to rehabilitate an image that was very much tarnished by the affair(s) that he had, and the birth of a child outside his marriage. The author goes through a lot of effort to make the story come out his way. As readers we shouldn't fault him for this effort, but simply keep it in mind as we search for entertainment and understanding as to what it took for him to succeed. We also get the sheer fantasy fulfillment of our own notions about what it would be like to lead the fantastic, unbelievable existence that is portrayed throughout this book.
It is probably true that the author has not led one life but many lives, and he has basically fulfilled most of his wishes in a life that is not yet complete. At one time or another he has journeyed to the top of the following worlds:
Only the author knows whether in the end it was all worth, was it a life worth living, and what does he do now with the time that is left? He must also balance it off with the affair that is explored in chapter 29 entitled "The Secret". You can't have all the above without also having to deal with this self-made star voluntarily destroying his family and his wife who is prominent in her own right, Maria Shriver.
We the readers are not aware of what occupies the author's mind during the moments when he is truly alone. Is it sadness, compassion, is there reflection, or does he simply remain on the ladder of success struggling for the next step on that ladder which is signified by "Arnold's Rules" explored in Chapter 30. This last chapter is worth the price of the book alone for in it, he tells you what he believes are the driving daily habits behind his success.
This is one reader who loved this book. It was a fabulous read, comical and entertaining too. One felt that you really got to know the author well, that you may have been in touch with his core at different points. It is also ture that the book was very clearly written on his terms. You can take him for what he says, you can disagree, but you cannot deny that this immigrant from Austria has lived and continues to live a bigger than life story, and is the personification, warts and all of the American dream of success. To this reader it is clearly NOT true that all you need is a vision of success, a willingness to work hard, and the ability to executive the vision and then you too can become a success like the author.
Many people, no matter how hard they work, for many reasons never make it, and it is not their fault that they fail. What is important at the end of one's life is that when you look back at YOUR life, you are able to say that I did the things I wanted to do, and I have NO REGRETS. Hopefully the author can say this about his life, although for the rest of us, it and he remain what appears to be an incredible life played out on many of the public stages of the world. You should take the time to read this book, and perhaps you will love it too as did this reader, and thank you for reading this review.
Does he want adulation ... vindication maybe ... or is this an attempt at a new image?
If so - it's not working. Arnold's quintessential appeal came from his "Kindergarten Cop" persona.
He has blown that - it's gone.
I may actually buy this book.
But if I do - it will not be for hero worship, or some sort of insight into California politics.
It will be a case study in how a man can do some really good things in life, and how he can also screw up royally. Arnold has done both. THAT is a real-life lesson that I can learn from.
I truly hope that Arnold gets on the road to real redemption. It is possible for him.
But he needs to seek real faith ... and he needs to look for God.
He's not there yet.
Most recent customer reviews
What an inspirational story. The mindset that it's helped me develop has carried over to improving all aspects of my life from my powerlifting to...Read more