MY LIFE SO FAR by Jane Fonda (Random House), 587 pages, $35.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Hollywood memoirs are usually exploitative crapfests, but we're talking Jane Fonda here, so who can resist?
Her life has been ceaselessly interesting from day one. She married three hopelessly fascinating guys, and she has an awesome body of work.
Most important, she's one big walking contradiction: a politically astute Hollywood powerhouse who created politically important art, but who, every time she entered a marriage, erased herself almost completely.
In My Life So Far, the discussions of her movies and how they were made are full of delicious details. Fonda recounts at length, for example, the battle she had with Coming Home director Hal Ashby over whether the famous sex scene should evoke penetration. In the chapter on the making of On Golden Pond, Katharine Hepburn comes across as a real character.
A major determining factor in Fonda's life was her relationship with her emotionally distant and physically absent father, the great actor Henry Fonda, who fed her need to please the men in her life. His death here generates real emotion, unusual in a celebrity tell-all.
When it comes to husbands Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, it's Fonda who becomes the enigma. By the time you've been through group sex with Vadim and Hayden's inability to tolerate her career - take note that she was a fully formed anti-war activist two years before she met him - you cannot believe that she could fall for Turner after a first date (during which she barely utters a word).
My Life So Far is not a literary event by any means, but Fonda is smart and self-aware. She now works with teens on issues of sexuality and self-esteem.
As the book winds down, she discloses a new commitment to Christianity. We can only hope that her spiritual quest is personally empowering and that she hasn't turned to Jesus to fill up that big hole inside of her.