“The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man”

It’s been a while since I last read an autobiography, but as a keen film fan I was drawn to Paul Newman’s posthumously published “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man”.

The book is curated rather than written, with the vast majority of its material recorded in interviews between 1986 and 1991. Newman had always intended to produce a memoir, but the material remained untouched until after his death. It was only then that David Rosenthal compiled the book from Stewart Stern’s original sources.

Because the narrative flits between Newman’s view of himself and of particular films and events, and testimonies from others – about Newman and those same films and events – the book possesses a kind of dynamism, always holding a mirror up to the primary narrator. Keeping him honest, perhaps.

Not that being honest is an issue for Newman. In places he is brutally so – and harshly self-critical.

For the movie fan, this is a fascinating read. You may be surprised by some of the light shed not just on Newman himself, but some others in his Hollywood orbit.

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