Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Laurence Leamer, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (421p) ISBN 978-0-312-33338-6

America's love affair with machine brutalism spills over into this somewhat smitten biography of its foremost icon. Leamer (The Kennedy Women ) chronicles Schwarzenegger's progress from bodybuilder to action-movie megastar, then California governor, visiting along the way his romance with Kennedy scion Maria Shriver and feud with rival Hollywood muscle-head Sylvester Stallone. It's a tale of relentless self-promotion: Schwarzenegger's fanatical weight-lifting routines are nothing compared with his grueling publicity marathons, including 94 puff-piece interviews in one day for Last Action Hero . Leamer gives his subject a bombastically vain personality, then struggles to make it appealing. He celebrates Schwarzenegger's room-filling ebullience, his "emotional wisdom" and "agape." He discerns a "subtle, ironic distance" in Schwarzenegger's acting. And Leamer downplays Schwarzenegger's alleged habit of groping women, chalking it up to "signals" sent by women who secretly welcome his advances, a casual European attitude toward sex that is "frustrated and puzzled" by American "political correctness" and a fun-loving spirit that "moves toward whatever is most joyful and gives him pleasure." The author is less indulgent toward what he sees as Schwarzenegger's substance-free political campaigning and unwillingness to grapple with California's long-term budget crisis. His book is not fantastic, but it's well researched and moves along at a pleasantly robotic clip. Agent, Joy Harris . (June 7)

Reviewed on: 05/23/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
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