Even This I Get to Experience Hardcover – Oct 14 2014
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“The Norman Lear who emerges from “Even This I Get to Experience” is engaging and unpompous, an amusing storyteller who pokes fun at himself and writes with brutal honesty about his life, especially his childhood. And what a story!"
“An entertaining, penetrating celebration of a richly lived life.”
Los Angeles Times:
“Immensely likeable…[Lear] isn't always a mensch in "Even This I Get to Experience" (italics, characteristically, his), but at least he can write like one…. In this city, Norman Lear and his post-coaxial contemporaries built a mass medium with their bare hands. On good days — as Lear well recalls, and recalls well — they made it sing. If only more with their talent had lived so long; if only more who live so long had his talent.”
“This is, flat out, one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written… An absolute treasure.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred):
"A TV titan on his memorable life and storied career. Lear, best known as the creative mind behind such classic comedies as All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Good Times, recounts his extraordinarily eventful life with his signature wit and irreverence. The result is not just a vividly observed and evocative portrait of a long life, but also a fascinating backstage look at the evolution of the American entertainment industry... Lear writes movingly of his service in World War II, his difficult upbringing and subsequent troubled marriages, and his commitment to liberal causes, evidenced by his founding of the advocacy organization People for the American Way and his purchase of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. That he makes these subjects as engrossing and entertaining as his Hollywood reminiscences speaks to Lear's mastery of storytelling and humor. A big-hearted, richly detailed chronicle of comedy, commitment and a long life lived fully."
“[A] feisty, thoughtful autobiography… Lear pens sharply observed studies of the creative process on his many iconic productions and bares plenty of raucous, sometimes bawdy anecdotes—readers get to experience a nude and lewd Jerry Lewis… [I]n keeping with the bigoted, mouthy, complex and loveable characters he created, Lear's knack for sizing up a flawed humanity makes for an absorbing read.”
President William J. Clinton
“That Norman Lear can find humor in life’s darkest moments is no surprise—it’s the reason he’s been so successful throughout his more than nine decades on earth, and why Americans have relied on his wit and wisdom for more than six. It’s also why EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is such a great read.”
“Norman Lear could never write a more dramatic, touching, or funnier tale of his life than he’s done here in EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE.”
“Many have known the Man behind the stories. Now all of us can know the stories behind the Man. Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Meathead couldn’t have told them better!”
“EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE is not just the brilliant, moving story of a man who has lived an amazing number of lives—from making it onto Richard Nixon’s ‘Enemies List’ to changing the face of television—but also a life manual on how to live a life of depth, purpose, and meaning.”
“Norman Lear is a hero and a friend . . . he experienced so much in his life . . . sometimes I just want to sit down and ask him questions about life and his perspective . . . to do it right it would take years of interviews . . . but now that he wrote this book I can experience his journey and wisdom over and over again.”
“Fantastic stories from one of the wisest, most subversive, and most beautiful human beings the comedy world has ever known. Like the man himself, this book is charming, awe-inspiring, and hilarious.”
About the Author
NORMAN LEAR is the television producer of such groundbreaking sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. He has received four Emmy awards, a Peabody, and the National Medal of Arts. As an advocate, Lear founded People For the American Way and supports First Amendment rights and other progressive causes.
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If I could, I would give Mr. Lear himself FIVE STARS for his career and what his shows have meant to me growing up, but I think there is something wrong in a book that is over 400 pages and devotes 20-30 pages to all his shows combined. Sandford and Son gets a few paragraphs when television lore and legend tells us that there were huge fights on that show, enough that Redd Foxx walked out during the season because he felt he was treated shabbily compared to the AITF cast. We get a few paragraphs about One Day At A Time and Bonnie Franklin and nothing about MacKenzie Phillip's drug addiction, how it effected the show and the way she was eventually fried. (It was rumored that Franklin had a recurring character taken of the show because she was upstaging the actress.) These aren't secrets, by the way, MacKenzie has written and been interviewed about this time extensively and The Truth Behind the Sitcom covers some of this, so he wouldn't be betraying MacKenzie by talking about it. Nothing at all about Different Strokes, that I could find, not one word.
He goes into more detail about his relationship with Carroll O'Connor and the censorship of All in the Family which I found fascinating. But except for mentioning talking to Roxy Roker about being in the first television interracial relationship, we don't hear about the fallout, reaction or battles they had with the show. These sections feels rushed - perhaps because many of the actors are dead, Mr. Lear would prefer not to say anything bad about their memories - but then I think one should avoid a biography of this length if that is the case. It was fun to read about Good Times and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Maude, but again, we don't get into his head enough, we just get postcards of what the shows were like, which is deeply unfair to a fan, when he spends a ton of time taking about his father, HK.
When Mr. Lear finishes with the All In the Family section, the book still has a third of a way to go. He writes about politics and his personal relationships, but unfortunately this isn't what we want from Norman Lear. He is a writer, the man behind the camera, so what we want is to understand what he is thinking about his work and the way it effects others. How he shapes the characters we have grown to love over the years. With the exception of a few anecdotes from his time working with Lewis and Martin, and Frank Sinatra, he really doesn't have the "juicy nuggets" that a book by star might have and we don't expect that from him.
I feel frustrated because he takes a great deal of time talking about his early home life, his time in the service during the war, and various relatives and his children. It's not boring exactly, but a little of this goes a long way. If I were his editor, I would have encouraged him to tell that beginning and end of the story in 30-60 pages and devote a good 100-150 to the shows - there was a reason why he had so many Emmy nominated shows, four or five in the top ten at the same time.
The problem is that a man of Norman Lear's achievement, age, and based on his personalty and tenacity which he shows throughout the book, it would take a star editor to stand up to him and tell him the last third of the of book is unnecessary and make him go back to the drawing board. Because Lear is going for prestige and making his mark in history, he has a quote on the back by "President William J. Clinton" That tells you everything you need to know. It's like the book falls into the exact trap that made his TV shows exceptional.
My hope is that someone does a film or interviews him before he dies or does a real biography about his shows, interviewing those who are still alive. There are many people who will enjoy this book, but if I knew that Sandford and Son and the Jeffersons were going to get the equivalent of three pages TOTAL, I would have read this in the library. Lear actually spends the same amount of time on failed projects in the 80's and 90s as he does on his biggest successes.
He is a man I admire, and I didn't want to write this, but I feel people should know what they are getting.
Lear has written a full-fledged book about his family...from his somewhat dysfunctional, if not amusing parents, through his three marriages (two divorces, one current) and his six children. Beyond the scope of his television work he reminds us of his work for social justice and the battles he has fought with the (especially Christian) right.
But it is his central involvement for creating shows from "All in the Family" to "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"....my two favorites.... that provided me with the most satisfaction. I enjoyed reading about the casting of "AITF" and subsequently, his battles with Carroll O'Connor, aka, Archie Bunker. This middle part of the book, from the end of section two through all of section three, gives us a terrific insight into the author and his times. "Even THIS I Get to Experience" is a nicely written and informative book.
I enjoyed, in the first part of the book, reading about the weirdness of his family, and his feelings at the time. He was tenacious and funny in overcoming many obstacles to follow his dreams. I was rooting for that engaging kid.
However, at a certain point in the book, after he became successful, my interest flagged a bit, because now it's just a chronology of his continuing successes. He wrote this script, hired these people, bonded with those people, etc. What made this otherwise placid section interesting was his revelations about the personalities of the actors and famous people he worked with, like Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Carroll O'Connor, Bea Arthur, and Jean Stapleton.
One of the most interesting parts was about All in the Family, and Lear's other creations of the time; it was groundbreaking TV and there were so many obstacles. Getting past the purity police, for example; or the way some of the actors began to drink their own Kool-Aid and take on a mission within their fictional role, making it harder to get them to play their parts.
What I was less enthralled with was the fact that, for me (although others may disagree), Lear wasn't highly introspective. He says, toward the end of the book, that he lacked emotional intelligence, but even then, he didn't go much of anywhere with it. One reason I bought the book - hardcover, yet! - was to learn what a brilliant 92-year-old might have to say about growing older.
Although Norman Lear wasn't sufficiently articulate on this point, everything about this book is inspiring. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He's self-deprecating if unreconstructed. He's tears-rolling-down-the-face patriotic. And by finding another gear at 70, he demonstrates the power of not letting oneself be defined by external forces.
So, ultimately, I was able to take away from my reading two things: an enjoyable read and a sense of empowerment. Well worth my money and time. Norman Lear is an American treasure, and I'm glad he took the time to write this book.
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