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Arnold Schwarzenegger's new memoir: anything but 'total recall'?

Arnold Schwarzenegger's new memoir 'Total Recall' is disappointing many readers.

By Husna Haq / October 1, 2012

The subtitle of Arnold Schwarzenegger (r.)'s new memoir is 'My Unbelievably True Life Story,' but many readers say the text doesn't live up to the billing.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP


Everything about “Total Recall,” by Arnold Schwarzenegger, written with Peter Petre, is larger than life. The book offers a length of 646 pages, an enlarged glamour shot on of Schwarzenegger on the cover, and an outsized claim in its subtitle: “My Unbelievably True Life Story.”

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But according to early reports, that title is nothing more than empty grandiosity and its outsize claim is never delivered in any of those 646 pages. Most disappointing, perhaps, is Schwarzenegger's insipid explanation of his affair during his marriage to Maria Shriver (more on that soon).

“Schwarzenegger’s tale falls far short of total recall and fails to achieve either the depth or the emotional impact that would make us care more deeply about this fascinating public figure,” writes the Washington Post in a piece titled “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoir is something less than ‘Total Recall.'”

Echoes the LA Times, “For the record, “Total Recall” is about as far from a 'tell-all' memoir as it gets. Although an exhaustive and at times exhausting documentation of Schwarzenegger's unique and amazing career, it is a book almost completely devoid of self-examination.”

What it lacks in introspection, however, “Total Recall” makes up for in recounting successes. And by the Arnold’s count, there were many. The author divides the book roughly into the three career arcs of his life – bodybuilding, acting, and politics.

He devotes almost 200 pages to his bodybuilding career, a line of work that brought him from Austria to the US and launched him into a bigger life. Here, Schwarzenegger writes about his seven Mr. Olympia titles, his use of steroids (they were legal at the time), and his sweet but strange Austrian upbringing that laid the foundation for his bodybuilding. Among descriptions of his Austrian childhood is Schwarzenegger's recollection that he and his brother were forced to do sit-ups to earn their breakfast each morning. (And, incidentally, a young Schwarzenegger had taped bodybuilders to his ceiling instead of pinups, causing his concerned mother to consult with a doctor about her assuredly red-blooded, heterosexual boy.)

Bodybuilding, of course, launched Schwarzenegger into Hollywood, where he leaped from “Pumping Iron” to “Stay Hungry” to “Conan the Barbarian,” a progression that cemented his reputation as an action star. And then, apparently, things got hazy for the newly minted celebrity. According to The New York Times, Schwarzenegger and his co-writer Petre “had to brush up on the details of his acting career by reading biographies and movie journals; his memory for slights, triumphs and salaries seems more reliable than his memory for work.”


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