“Nothing brings our Arnold more pleasure than himself,” writes Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman in a merciless review of the Governator’s recently released memoir.
No autobiography has left The Guardian’s “Lost in Showbiz” desk disliking the author more than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story,” Freeman says. It’s more political memoir than celebrity memoir—a distinction cemented by the book’s 650-page defense of the man’s decisions in film and government, rather than a mix of melancholy and piquant tales of his failures and mistakes interspersed with humble recollections of his victories.
Whatever remained of Schwarzengger’s reputation as a marginally likable guy became a hapless victim of his self-infatuation. Witness his treatment of Mildred Baena, the maid with whom he fathered a child in a relationship that ended his marriage to Maria Shriver.
[D]espite his adherence to the more self-validating form, Arnie cannot help but come across as a reassuringly repulsive individual. Even aside from his constant cataloguing of his financial earnings and his unGuardian politics (“Taking the [Watergate scandal] out of the equation, I admired Richard Nixon and thought he was a terrific president”), it’s the way this condom stuffed with walnuts (copyright: Clive James) just radiates with self-love and a near sociopathic lack of interest in others that really sticks in the mind.
Let us return to the aforementioned boffing and flip to the index. But there, just beneath “Back-end, Arnold’s, 362-63, 374” is not, as one might expect, “Baena, Mildred”, the name of the mother of his non-Kennedy child, but Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Banderas. Instead, Mildred is dispatchfully dealt with as barely a sidenote in the final chapter: “Mildred had been working in our household for five years and all of a sudden we were alone in the guest house. When Mildred gave birth the following August, she named the baby August.” As narrative ellipses go, it’s not quite up there with “Reader, I married him”, but it nips at Charlotte Bronte’s heels.