Magazine article The Spectator

Bionic Bore

Magazine article The Spectator

Bionic Bore

Article excerpt

Catling Total Recall: My Unbelievable True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger Simon & Schuster, £20, pp. 646, ISBN 9781849839716

After wading through 646 pages of narcissistic gush and breathtaking vulgarity in the accents of Dr Kissinger and Dr Strangelove, I am consoled by the thought that the ordeal has not been entirely a waste of effort.

Frequently able to put the book down, yet obliged every time but one to lift it up again, I have found the exercise has wonderfully enlarged, defined and beautified my deltoids, trapezii, latissimus dorsi and other muscles too intimate to mention. Now, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I can gaze into looking glasses with intensified Gemutlichkeit.

If I obey 'Arnold's Rules' - especially the advice, 'When someone tells you "no", you should hear "yes" ' and 'Don't overthink' - will I, too, in the brief period at my disposal, be able to become a champion bodybuilder? Will I also become a shrewd dealer in real estate, a multimillionaire action hero in motion pictures, a political leader of the free enterprise system, an author of an autobiography like this one, which he calls 'an international event', and a master of 'joke-telling skills'? Perhaps not.

Arnold's world is divided into two sorts of people, sweethearts and assholes, and there is always a danger of falling into the lower category, a risk of terminating as a bionic bore, a cyber schmuck, as he keeps demonstrating.

All his successes, he says, have been brought about by his charm, strength and determination. The few glitches along the way have been caused by other people's faults. His father, a Nazi police sergeant, was paternally harsh and unimaginative when Arnold was born, in 1947, and brought up in Thal, a village in Austria, where they had to draw water from a well and there were food shortages.

Bodybuilders, who compensated with overeating and anabolic steroids (then legal in their bizarre sport) should not have encouraged him to go for the Mr Universe title, which is presumptuous, and maybe false, as there are probably even more grossly inflated physiques somewhere else, if not in our own galaxy. Arnold could not help it, right after migrating to the United States, when President Nixon inspired him to swear everlasting allegiance to the Republican Party, confusing him when he married Maria Shriver, a devout member of the Kennedy-Shriver clan of Democrats. She failed to dissuade him from becoming a Republican Governor of the State of California, with its unfair-to-Arnold left-wing legislature and incurable budget deficits. …

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