Sunday, April 10, 2005

Books: Jane Fonda's My Life So Far

At 597 pages of text, Jane Fonda covers a lot of ground in My Life So Far and some of the more idiotic reviews (see Blog Spotlight this edition for comments on Janet Maslin) have picked through the book without reading it.

No surprise, it's a weighty volume. This is a book by someone that's lived several lifetimes (in a non-Shirley MacLaine way). This is a book by a woman who's been an activist, a model, a pin-up, an actress in films, television and on Broadway, married to three famous men (Ted Turner, Tom Hayden and Roger Vadim, in reverse order), the daughter of a famous actor (Henry Fonda), the sister of another famous actor (Peter Fonda), a business woman both in the entertainment world and the fitness world, someone who's traveled around the globe, someone who lived in France, a politician's wife, someone who made Nixon's enemies list, the mother of two children, and now a grandmother. The idea that 597 pages will cover every aspect of every year of such a public life is a bit inspid.

So we'll let the Janet Maslins carp that some movie another reviewer for The New York Times wasn't impressed with didn't make more than a page in the book. And while we might expect/hope for a tell all from Sharon Stone about on set antics, we were smart enough not to expect that from Fonda. The woman who never says "the end" but always views life as a journey has a bit more to write about.

Which isn't to say that movie buffs will be disappointed. She does address films and fills you in on details. For instance, if you've wondered about the turtle she picks up in The China Syndrome when, as Kimberly Wells, she listens to her phone messages, you'll find the answer here. You'll find out some advice that Lee Marvin gave her on the set of Cat Ballou.

We've been devouring it all week since Tuesday. And we're not alone. Folding Star of A Winding Road noted:

I'm exhausted, too, but for a far less interesting reason: insomnia. Which was aided and abetted by Jane Fonda!! I couldn't put the bloody book down! :) I'm really enjoying it. She was remarkably candid. I think so far I'd have to say it's the best autobiography I've ever read.
I've had very little progress today myself, thanks to the Fonda book! lol. I keep going back to it, 'just for a few minutes' and I look up and it's an hour and a half later. :)

It is a book that's hard to put down. Two members (Dona and Jess) weren't happy about pulling themselves away from the book tonight to work on this edition. (Though they got into the spirit quickly.) Fonda's been on NPR's Morning Edition, Good Morning America and 60 Minutes this week. But our favorite appearence was on The David Letterman Show. She noted it makes a great mother's day gift and we'd agree that it makes a great gift, for anyone.

Here's an excerpt will quote both to lead in to the next section and also because we love exposing fools like George Will (from page 408):

The China Syndrome had been playing in theaters for about two weeks, with great box office success. Conservative columnist George Will had called us irresponsible for making a thriller that would scare people about nuclear power because, he said, it was based on fantasy, not fact. Then, on March 30, 1979, while I was in St. George, Utah, filming The Electric Horseman, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that high levels of radiation were leaking from inside the reactor of the Three Mile Island atomic power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Radioactive steam clouds were escaping. The commission admitted there was "the ultimate risk of a meltdown." and Pennsylvania's governor, Dick Thornburgh, asked that children and pregnant women within a five-mile radius of the Three Mile Island facility evacuate the area.

Probably one of the gifts of a long life is being able to be around long enough to be proven right. Fonda's been different from many in this regard, she's usually been proven right rather quickly.
Another gift is the ability to look back and reflect on your life. That Fonda's willing to do that is hardly surprisingly. At 64, she's not just still attractive or still alert, she's still growing. Some reviewers (Maslin?) may have embraced rigidity long ago and need the safety of boxes and labels but Fonda's life has been a search for meaning and the search continues.

For anyone living in the present tense, this is a book we would highly recommend.

C.I advises that The Guardian of London has excerpted the book. For those readers whose budgets might not allow an immediate purchase and whose libraries might not yet have the book. we'll steer you to The Guardian's final excerpt which contains links at the bottom to the previous excerpts. (There are four excerpts total.)

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