I was weaned on the giants of the `80s action movies: Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Lundgren and of course, Schwarzenegger. I can in fact remember the first time I saw an Arnie film, when my babysitter decided to put on The Terminator and at a pre-school age, I was confronted with the sight of this behemoth of a man, carving a path of carnage through LA. From then on in, I was a fan.
When Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger landed on my doormat, I felt like a kid at Christmas!
The life story of Arnold Schwarzenegger is truly remarkable. In his own words, "...what are the odds... for an Austrian farm boy to come to America and become the greatest bodybuilding champion of all time, to get in the movie business, marry a Kennedy, and then get elected governor of the biggest state of the United States..."
From that brief quotation, the reader can see there is certainly plenty of material for him to cover and this is demonstrated by the fact that you're halfway through the book before any real discussion of The Terminator: a movie that was made almost 30 years ago.
At times, I was laughing uncontrollably at some of the stories in this book and most of the time, I couldn't help but read it and hear his voice in your head! Although much of what is narrated in the book is already well-known, getting Schwarzenegger's version of events is compelling, hearing about his childhood in Austria, his will to succeed in bodybuilding, how Conan the Barbarian brought him international stardom, how he was determined to succeed as Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; and many other tales that leave you wondering how one man at the age of 65 years old could fit so much into one lifetime.
Arnold comes across as incredibly driven, highly competitive and quite calculating, sometimes to the point where I found myself losing a bit of respect for him. His psychological toying with other athletes on and off the stage were not what I would expect from a modern athlete but then again, Schwarzenegger really was a game-changer as far as the bodybuilding world was concerned.
As the book progressed, I was worried that he would simply ignore the subject of his lovechild but in fact, my fears were allayed late on in the book. Despite this, he skirts over his own failings and misdemeanours such as affairs, alleged sexual harassment, drug use and steroid abuse. This may be understandable, given that Arnold is still a high profile individual, a role model to many and a man who still hopes that he can save his marriage to Maria Shriver.
The section on Arnie's time in politics will not be to everyone's taste, especially those who are more interested in his bodybuilding and/or movie career. At times, it can be very dry and overly-descriptive about political processes; but it is also not without its highpoints and is peppered with references and anecdotes about famous politicians and celebrities alike. Schwarzenegger freely admits many of the mistakes he made while in office as the Governor of California but is keen to point out that he gave it his absolute all, just like every other career decision he has made.
For me, as a fan, I don't regret reading this book. Much of the information contained therein is already common knowledge but the facts and circumstances that are already known are brought to life with Schwarzenegger's own stories and thoughts on events. The title of the book however, is only partly true; the latter half being correct in that yes, it is indeed an "unbelievably true life story"; but the title "Total Recall" is quite the misnomer, since I cannot help but feel much has been omitted deliberately from this book.
Ultimately, this book is much like the man himself: entertaining, larger than life, charismatic and unforgettable; but not without its flaws.