The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir

Knopf. Oct. 2022. 320p. ed. by David Rosenthal. ISBN 9780593534502. $32. FILM
The much-anticipated, posthumously published, reflective ruminations of Paul Newman (1925–2008) proves worth the wait. The actor, director, father of six, Democratic political activist, philanthropist, and race car enthusiast speaks in first person, sometimes irreverently, in this compilation of rescued transcripts. The transcripts, edited by Rosenthal, are based on taped conversations made between 1986 and 1991 with the assistance of screenwriter friend Stewart Stern. Within the framework of basic facts—his WWII naval service; drama courses at Kenyon College, Yale, and the Actors Studio; his marriages to Jackie Witte and Joanne Woodward; his 10 Oscar nominations and three Oscar wins (one competitive; two honorary)—readers encounter other points of view from the reflections of co-stars, directors, and family members. While acclaimed for his charity brand of food products, he struggled with alcoholism, a lack of confidence in sports and studies, the guilt over his son Scott’s death from a drug overdose, and his preference for privacy (paradoxically, despite his legions of lifelong friends).
VERDICT Readers will want to savor the stories in this oral history-turned-autobiography and undoubtedly be motivated to watch or rewatch Newman’s many films.
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