Feature

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Bodybuilding was Schwarzenegger's ticket out of his native Austria, and it gave him faith it in his own powers.

(Simon & Schuster, $35)

“Let’s get the scandalous stuff out of the way, because Arnold Schwarzenegger certainly wants to,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. In his new memoir, the actor, former bodybuilder, and ex-governor of California offers a brief mea culpa regarding the 1996 fling he had with his housekeeper, which resulted in a secret child and eventually the end of his marriage to TV journalist Maria Shriver. He’d never messed around with the help, he says, but this housekeeper happened to find herself alone with him in the guesthouse, and, you know.... So it goes in this extended tour through the author’s long and—“as he loves pointing out”—highly lucrative career. In Arnold’s world, nothing he’s done can’t be spun as a victory.

Total Recall is, in fact, “about as far from a ‘tell-all’ memoir” as a book can get, said Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times. “Secrecy is just part of me,” he writes, on page 593, leaving readers to hunt on their own for clues as to what makes this man tick. The 200 pages he devotes to bodybuilding might be a tip-off: His acting career and governorship get less, and “the years he spent bending his own physiology to his will appear to be his most formative.” Bodybuilding was his ticket out of his native Austria to Hollywood and beyond, and the faith it gave him in his own powers “was—and remains—his greatest asset.”

There are a few revelations, said Vernon Loeb in The Washington Post. Discussing his two terms as governor, Schwarzenegger admits that the fight he picked with schoolteachers and state workers was “a total disaster.” And it’s worth noting in this election year that he’s still proud to have been more left-leaning than most major figures in today’s Republican party. But when he discusses his marriage to Shriver, and his deep admiration for her parents, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, his humanity comes through most clearly. “I was luckier than I deserved to have such a wife,” Schwarzenegger writes. Reading his memoir “leaves a reader hungering for hers.”

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