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Lessons in Becoming Myselfby Ellen Burstyn
Synopses & Reviews
In this powerful story of a woman's search for a deeper understanding of herself, Ellen Burstyn explores the unexpected paths her life has taken in this unflinchingly honest, moving, and inspirational memoir.
Ellen Burstyn has always defied expectations. Born in Detroit during the Depression, she left home at eighteen, leaving behind a complicated relationship with her mother, and moved to Dallas to become a model. Eventually, Burstyn ended up in New York City, where she performed in a variety of roles on Broadway and on television in the late 1950s and early 1960s before turning to film. Over the course of her career she delivered brilliant performances in The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore-for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress-Resurrection, and Requiem for a Dream.
But this book is much more than a recitation of Burstyn's acting triumphs. It's a frank and unsparing account of her search for personal and professional authenticity and the consequences of that struggle. Burstyn's efforts as an actor to uncover the enduring truths in each of her roles, which she learned from Lee Strasberg at the renowned Actors Studio, inform her life offstage as well. In Lessons in Becoming Myself, Burstyn describes her personal missteps and how confronting them encouraged her to find a different life path. Raised a Catholic, Burstyn has spent her life exploring a wide range of spiritual experience-from the Himalayas to Cambodia, from Mont Blanc to New York City-that goes deeper than labels.
Lessons in Becoming Myself is the extraordinary story of the quest for the examined life. By turns thoughtful and funny, insightful and lighthearted, it is a brilliant accomplishment by one of the finest observers of human nature.
"In her first book, Oscar- and Tony-winning actress Burstyn has cast a life story that could easily light up the silver screen, replete with abusive parents, high school tragedy, showbiz triumph, reversals of fortune and a plucky heroine in search of professional and spiritual fulfillment. Burstyn begins with impressionistic memories of her Detroit childhood, including her tumultuous relationship with her mother and stepfather Lou, moving from the scare of her brother's near-fatal struggle with pneumonia when she was not yet 3 to the traumatic illegal abortion she had at age 18. Burstyn's career kicks off a few years later on Broadway, launching her on a challenging path to movie stardom, a number of failed romances-including a mentally ill husband who would stalk her for years-and her globe-spanning search for religion. Burstyn's tell-all works beautifully, thanks to her talent for spare but clear description; the happy story of Stone House, her home in upstate New York for 11 years, covers just a few pages, but Butrym still makes her farewell to the house resonate: 'I walked away with a sense of carrying my own chapel with me.' The blemish in this upbeat, chatty book is Burstyn's occasional tendency toward self-help language-'The more I struggled to free myself, the more entangled I became'-but it's easy to forgive, given the honesty, bravery and warmth with which she tells her story." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Ellen Burstyn's career has encompassed more than forty years on stage, in film, and on television. She's been nominated six times for an Academy Award, winning the Best Actress Oscar in 1974 for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, as well as a Tony for her performance in Same Time, Next Year. She continues to serve as copresident of the Actors Studio in New York City.
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