I was on vacation earlier this week and read a good bit of Even This I Get to Experience by Norman Lear on the beach at Assateague while I kept one eye open for wild ponies. He is the producer of one my favorite and often overlooked shows, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman as well as many famous shows like All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time.
I loved the beginning half of the book. Norman Lear is now 95 and the book is about the first 92 years of his life. I loved reading about his childhood with his horrible sounding mother, lovely grandmother and criminal father. My Grandpop was in WWII so reading about his experiences as a gunner during the war was also engaging. By the time he was 25 or so it seems like he had already led several lives as a son who bounced around unwanted to relative’s homes after his father’s incarceration, a gunner, a business man, a father, a hawker on Coney Island, an actor, a writer, a PR agent, a husband. It really was no surprise that he went on to live many more lives as a radio writer, tv producer, husband of 3 women and father of many children (the last of whom were born when his first child was 48!!).
The show business parts were some of the best I’ve ever read and covered everything from radio to the theater to the early days of television. His accounts were very detailed and often wry until some of the more maudlin show business memoirs out there.
While I think he did a great job analyzing his childhood and recounting the lives of the other people in his life, he was not very introspective. Why did he marry a woman right out of the army that he barely knew? He seems to find that as puzzling as I do. Why doesn’t he realize until his nineties that the character of Maude was clearly based on his very feminist and politically active second wife? Little things like this in the second half of the book nagged at me and made it less enjoyable. Still, it is one of the best, if not the best memoir of radio and television I have ever read.