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Frank's Book Log

Literature is a relative term.

Total Recall

My Unbelievably True Life Story
2012 | Nonfiction
A cover of Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger (2012)
C+: 3 stars (out of 5)
on May 21, 2022

I got the Audible version thinking it was read by Schwarzenegger. He reads the first and last chapters. I was set to return the book after realizing this, but the narrative kept me engaged. Stephen Lang, while no Arnold, does a competent job.

The book chronicles Arnold’s life. From his birth in a small Austrian village, his childhood and introduction to bodybuilding, his rise through the sport, his transition to acting, and his time as governor of California. The first half will feel familiar to anyone having read Arnold’s earlier autobiography, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. Some anecdotes have changed, but one shouldn’t consider either book gospel truth. Arnold is, above all, a driven salesman, and one senses he’s selling himself here.

More political memoir than comprehensive autobiography, we get more details about ballot initiatives and legislative negotiation than gym routines or movie sets. Forgivable for the latter, as Arnold’s earlier autobiography and his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding cover his bodybuilding years in depth. But those hoping for insight into the Batman and Robin fiasco, or why the long rumored Crusades with Paul Verhoeven never happened, should prepare for disappointment. Still, the book offers insight into Last Action Hero’s failure, and how several projects fell apart after Arnold’s heart surgery.

I enjoyed the closing chapter the most. Titled “Arnold’s Rules” and read by Arnold, it felt inspiring, with Arnold detailing his philosophy for life.

All-and-all an entertaining read, if a bit disappointing. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Arnold was selling, not telling. When Arnold talks about keeping his heart surgery from everyone—including his family—it invites questions of what he’s withholding now. Arnold’s aforementioned isolationism leads to compartmentalization, which, combined with his myopic focus on the future, means he may lack the self-awareness necessary to tell his story. What he hasn’t compartmentalized away he’s forgotten, replaced by stories he invented to sell. Perhaps one day we’ll get the truth. Arnold could call it True Lies.

Reading History

    Sat May 21, 2022 via Audible (Read by Stephen Lang and Arnold Schwarzenegger)
    Listened to over 15 Days
    1. 07 May, 2022
    2. 09 May, 2022
    3. 15 May, 2022
    4. 21 May, 2022