Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am by Charles Grodin

How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am
by Charles Grodin

April 9th 2009 by Springboard Press
Hardcover, 240 pages
0446519405 (isbn13: 9780446519403)

 rating: 4 of 5 stars

“My first memory of something having a powerful, lasting effect on me came when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”

I saw an interview once with Cameron Crowe in which he said that his movie “Almost Famous” was like blowing a kiss his early years as a roadie/music reporter and the people who’d been part of those experiences.  I think, in a similar way, How I Got to Be is Charles Grodin’s kiss-blowing to his own past, both his boyhood and his journey from theatre to film to journalism.  And it’s a sweet kiss.

Grodin’s newest book includes behind-the-scenes tales that feature actors, directors, writers, producers, journalists and politicians with whom he’s worked. It’s best to think of this book as a collection of essays.  Other than Grodin himself, there’s no cohesive thread throughout.  There’s a chapter about Dustin Hoffman and the movie The Graduate, a chapter about Grodin’s perspective on doctors and modern medicine, a chapter about Grodin’s work in Washington, D.C.

I had not known that Charles Grodin was such a political activist.  In fact, he’s received the William Kuntsler Award for Racial Justice and has been honored by Habitat for Humanity for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the homeless.  One of my favorite anecdotes in How I Got to Be was the one in which Grodin describes his experience making a documentary with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.  The three created a primetime special with actual footage from Vietnam, to explain how and why Simon & Garfunkel were writing anti-war music.

Your Father’s Day shopping begins and ends here.  As I was reading this book, I made a mental note just about every other page that this would be a great gift for my dad or either of my grandfathers.  Despite the fact these three men wouldn’t agree with Grodin’s politics, I doubt they could resist the wry humor and honest appraisal of a life well-lived that Grodin offers in How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am. 

(also, all of Mr. Grodin's proceeds from this book go to Mentoring U.S.A.)


  1. I hadn't known this much about Charles Grodin he always seemed like a funny and regular actor in his movies. It's interesting to hear about his political liberal leanings and his activism. It makes him even more personable.

    I wouldn't have looked into this book and appreciate learning more through this review.

  2. My dad eats this kind of stuff right up! I think I'll take up your suggestion and get this for fathers day.

  3. I heart, heart, heart Dustin Hoffman. This book has got to be worth a read just based on that essay alone!



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