Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story

Since Education of a Bodybuilder is a must-read book, one might expect Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story to be even better. After all, Education was written while Arnold was still a young man and was published when he was a mere 30 years of age. Yet Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story ended up disappointing.

The book was disappointing because it was, in a word, a lie. A huge lie. It involved a Total Recall (the film) level of fantasy.

Most of us lie because we have to. We all sing for our supper, so to speak, and must be careful not to offend. You had better blog and comment anonymously, lest some woman in HR or marketing ruin your career.

Arnold with worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He has Fuck You Money. When a man has Fuck You Money, he can finally afford to be true to himself.  Arnold is uncomfortable with the truth.

The most glaring example is Arnold’s discussion of his use of anabolic steroids. Arnold was famous for using high does of  anabolic steroid s. He used doses higher than anyone else at the time, and some viewed his use as dangerous. (As it turns out, the body handles anabolic steroids rather well and even massive doses aren’t dangerous.)

Arnold could have said of steroids, “My life philosophy can be summed up in three words – whatever it takes. I used steroids because that’s what it took to win.” Instead, he said of anabolic steroids, “The advantage they gave was about the same as having a good suntan.”

Some might say Arnold lied about his drug use in order to protect teens. “He doesn’t want to give off the wrong idea. He doesn’t want to encourage teens to use steroids.” But consider his lie about steroids with his other lies.

Arnold cheated on Maria Shriver repeatedly. He was a notorious pussy hound. Yet the only two affairs he admitted to were the ones he got caught up in – the one with his nanny and the one with Brigitte Nielsen.

As an apex alpha, Arnold is entitled to lie about what he wants. Yet one has to start wondering just how alpha Arnold truly is.

Most of his lies reveal his weak self-esteem and desperate need to be liked. He talks throughout the book about his desire to advance the interests of women. He kisses Maria Shriver’s ass. He lies about steroids. He lies about being a ruthless businessman.

Arnold is the kind of man who would fire a family man the day before Christmas. Again, I pass no moral judgment on him. But don’t be a  pussy and hide it. If that’s who you are, be a man and own it.

Arnold is no longer a man. He is a chameleon who changes colors in order to be liked by others. Maybe he was always that way. Maybe his intense desire to be liked is what fueled his success.

That said, the first half of the book was interesting and offered a lot of life lessons that will be covered in a separate post. (Check out: Arnold’s Real Lessons from Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.)

The second half of the book was sad and disappointing. Arnold went from a lion whose example should inspire all to a pathetic old man who desperately wants people to like him.

Read more: Education of a Bodybuilder.

Update: This three-star review does an excellent job of summarizing the problems with Total Recall:

Schwarzenegger’s new book isn’t as bad as it could be. This is a decent autobiography, with plenty of memories and anecdotes. Like Arnold himself, the book is warm but so guarded I can’t help but wonder what he’s leaving out. This is not a racy tell-all. It is a not-bad account of an ambitious (but not remotely self-aware) man who has done a a fair amount of interesting things.

So we have to assume that this book is intended as some kind of public love letter to beg her forgiveness and try to win her back….

In the end, the book does have some unwitting insights, although most of them are between the lines. Fans of Schwarzenegger’s politics or films will find a lot here to entertain them. For me it was mildly interesting, but in the end this is not a person — or a book — I need in my life after I finish the final page.


  • Nick

    Education of a Bodybuilder was excellent and by the end of the book Arnold was just on the cusp of his fame. It’s disappointing to hear Total Recall isn’t a worthy successor. While I respect his achievements as a bodybuilder, actor and mogul, he lost most of his luster as governor of California. He was in a unique position after the first-ever successful recall of a governor, but he totally blew it. He is known as a flake and a chameleon, as you aptly described. He was supposedly a big Milton Friedman fan, but governed as a center-leftist, paying lip service to the free market that rocketed him to fame, and pandering to environmentalists. He left office with a 23% approval rating, 1% higher than the recalled Gray Davis. He tried to please too many people, and ended up being hated by most.

  • anon1

    the issue with fame + power i guess is he cant say what he wants, because the fear of losing that influence. But then why should he fear it? he’s done enough for 4 people’s lifetimes. he still remains a huge inspiration for me but mostly in light of his achievements his ruthlessness in going for what he wants and his past accomplishments

  • StS

    Why should he be completely about everything?
    Imagine, he’d say “Yes, it’s true, I took enough steroids for 300 years and fucked every pretty girl I could get a grip on”…his status as a hero would be gone in a second, especially in the puritanic USofA. He’d earn respect from a small minority of alphas (which he anyway already has earned otherwise) for being completely honest, but the vast majority of people would despise him. This book is for a general readership, you should bear that in mind before judging…

    • Danger & Play

      It’s his prerogative to appeal to the Oprah crowd and it’s my prerogative to find the man revolting.

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