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Paul Newman

A Memoir

4.4 (44 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman is an inspiring memoir detailing the life of an actor and philanthropist. It shows how he balanced his success with humility and used his platform to give back to society, making a positive impact on the world.

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    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man
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    The Decorative Boy

    Decoration. This word comes up a lot when Paul Newman thinks back to his childhood. He was born in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Shaker Heights, in 1925. To say that his mom, Tess, kept a clean house would be an understatement. It was so clean, it didn’t look like anyone lived there. It was a well-decorated house, and looking back, Newman can see that he was just another of his mom’s decorations.

    In fact, Newman sees two sides of himself: the decorative boy and the orphan. The decorative boy got dolled up and fussed over by his mom, was paraded around in front of her friends, and tried to please. The one who was treated as though he was nothing more than an extension of his mother. 

    The orphan, however, was his core being. The orphan was the one who didn’t know what was happening to him or who he really was. The one who would spend the next 50 years trying to catch up and deal with what his mother’s upbringing had done to him. Like trying to cope with the fact that, if Paul had been an unattractive child, his mom wouldn’t have paid him any attention at all.

    Meanwhile, Paul’s father, Art Newman Sr., was co-owner of a local sporting-goods store. Art Sr. also had unhealthy ways of subtly rebelling against the domineering powers of the Newman matriarch. He hid bottles of bourbon in the house. When he got home from work he would take a couple shots from a bottle in his closet. Other times, he would sneak down to the basement, usually under the guise of checking on the water heater, in order to drink and smoke cigarettes.

    On some special occasions, Art Sr. would more actively protest Tess’s desires for picture-perfect domesticity. Tess would have the table perfectly arranged, with an ironed tablecloth and fine china, the kids wearing their best suits and ties, and then Art Sr. would sit down at the table wearing his dirtiest, rattiest clothes. Stuff like this could lead to screaming fights between the parents. Paul remembers a time when Tess grabbed a large framed picture off the wall and brought it down right over her husband’s head. Art Sr. was left walking around, wearing the frame like a giant necklace.

    Paul knows that because of these family dynamics he started building up walls around himself long ago. Walls that made it difficult to be in touch with his own feelings and communicate with others. He wonders if his father’s alcoholism and his inability to communicate led to some of these issues – as well as Paul’s own heavy drinking, and the terrible addiction problems his first son, Scott, faced.

    We’ll get into this, and more, in the sections ahead, as Paul stumbles into acting, marriage, and fatherhood, in very quick succession.

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    What is The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man about?

    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man (2022) is a thoughtful memoir that finds the legendary actor Paul Newman looking back at his life with a critical, introspective eye. Newman isn’t afraid to be self-deprecating as he looks back on his career, as well as his shortcomings as a husband and father.

    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man Review

    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man (2021) takes readers on a captivating journey through the experiences and perspectives of Paul Newman. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides insightful reflections on the life of a man who achieved extraordinary success while remaining true to himself.
    • Through personal anecdotes and intimate storytelling, the book offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of entertainment and philanthropy.
    • With its genuine and down-to-earth tone, the book captures the essence of a remarkable individual, ensuring that readers will find it both engaging and relatable.

    Who should read The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man?

    • Movie buffs
    • Fans of introspective memoirs
    • People interested in the life of an actor

    About the Author

    Paul Newman was an award-winning actor and director, who has appeared in numerous films including The Hustler, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Nobody’s Fool. He was also a championchip race car driver as well as a respected humanitarian who has raised nearly $1 billion for multiple charities.

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    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man?

    The main message of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is to find joy and fulfillment in the everyday moments of life.

    How long does it take to read The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man?

    The reading time for The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man varies, but it can be completed in several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is a captivating read that reminds us of the beauty and significance of ordinary moments.

    Who is the author of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man?

    The author of The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is Paul Newman.