Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Folding Star (A Winding Road) and The Third Estate Sunday Review on Jane Fonda's autobiography My Life So Far

Rebecca and I both learned this week that Folding Star had reviewed Jane Fonda's My Life So Far as part of a Saturday Book Chat.

My apologies to Folding Star for missing that. In case anyone else missed it at A Winding Road, I'm providing it here. Lynda e-mailed to ask that we note again that the book is number one on the hardcover, non-fiction list of the New York Times (for the second week in a row). While it's not about the numbers, we will note it.

Here's Folding Star's review of Jane Fonda's My Life So Far:

The other great book I read since my last Book Chat was Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far.
I got so caught up in this book that hours would slip by unnoticed. I had several nights of little sleep because I'd pick it up to read in bed, just for a little while, and the next thing I'd know it would be close to four a.m.!
It's the most incredibly forthright autobiography I've ever read. Fonda opens herself up to the reader in very honest ways, exploring her difficult relationship with her father, her reaction to her mother's suicide, her three marriages, her film career, her struggles with bulima and low self esteem, and her actions during the Vietnam War in intimate detail.
The ultimate portrait is one of a human being who's made plenty of mistakes but who has come to know herself and believe in herself at last, not to mention someone who has the courage of her convictions and works to make this world a better place.
I picked up the book feeling I knew Fonda well enough. I'd liked her from the time I was a small kid, when 9 to 5 was one of my favorite movies. I didn't consciously get the very powerful message of the film at the time, of course, but I couldn't get enough of the movie itself. The humor of the movie appealed to me, even though, looking back, I realize how much of it was over my young head.
But after reading the book, I realized how little I'd known about this amazing woman, about her commitments to making a difference in the world, about her own personal struggles to know and love herself that are all too relatable to many of us and that I never would have imagined that someone like Jane Fonda had to deal with.
Every aspect of her story is told to help those who may be dealing with similar feelings and circumstances. Even in the telling of her life story, Fonda is reaching out to others, trying to help.
Her chapters on the Vietnam war and in particular the US Government's actions against her during that time are not to be missed, either, for anyone who may not be aware of that part of our country's history. It will also read as all too familiar a picture when compared to the current situation our country finds itself in.
I honestly think that, whatever your feelings for Fonda may be, if you give this book a chance you'll be shocked at what you take away from it.

If you haven't read the book yet, check your local library, local bookstore or Powell's Books online for a copy of Jane Fonda's My Life So Far.

We'll also note The Third Estate Sunday Review's review of 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.)

[For disclosure purposes, I may have assisted on the above review. I honestly don't remember and can't tell from the "A Note to Our Readers" from that edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. The "advises" mention indicates I read the review prior to it being published but pointing out that The Guardian was excerpting the book may have been my only input. It is clear, however, that Rebecca and Betty assisted Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava with the review. I'll also note that Betty's made Jane Fonda's book trumping Thomas Friedman's latest a running joke, including before the chart's came out, at her blog Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man.]

Thank you to Isaiah for the illustration (which is directly below this entry). And remember Jane Fonda's new film, Monster-in-Law, opens May 13th.

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