cover image The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir

Paul Newman. Knopf, $32 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-53450-2

Actor, race car driver, and philanthropist Newman (1925–2008) was a deeply private man living an intensely public life; this posthumous memoir features the Hollywood legend’s own voice as he “sets things straight” and “pokes holes in the mythology” that accompanied his celebrity. Adapted from interviews taped with his friend Stewart Stern before his death, Newman’s story unfolds in a humble, sometimes humorous narrative voice—“I’m aware that in some ways it’s my nature to deprecate everything I do”—punctuated with earnest awe of the turns his life has taken, astonishment at the intensity of his passion for wife Joanne Woodward, affection for his children and anguish that he could not shelter them from the vagaries of fame. Newman’s voice is interwoven with transcripts from friends, relatives, and colleagues (including Eva Marie Saint, Tom Cruise, Elia Kazan, and more) whose memories shed light on what transformed the summer stock actor into an international sex symbol and what curbed his struggles with alcoholism and grief from veering into tragedy. As compiled by editor David Rosenthal, these collective perspectives do more than offer a prismatic view of film industry glamour and dirty laundry: they elevate the book from a humble autobiography to a more nuanced, human portrait—with the “semblance of truth” that Newman craved when he went on the record. With equal parts grounded authenticity and inviting charm, this candid memoir captures the life of a legend. (Oct.)