CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN: My Search for Meaning by Kirk Douglas

CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN: My Search for Meaning

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Having had an eventful decade since his acclaimed The Ragman's Son, it's small wonder that this successful novelist-actor returns to the memoir form. In the last ten years, Douglas has been in a near-fatal helicopter crash, suffered a stroke, won a long-deserved Oscar (for career achievement), and rediscovered his Jewish roots. The trigger for the deep thinking that this book apparently represents is a midair collision between a helicopter carrying Douglas and Noel Blanc (Mel's son) and a plane whose two occupants were killed. Douglas understandably found himself asking why he and Blanc survived while the two younger men died. This, in turn, led to reflections on other brushes with death. A trip to Israel and a meeting with a dynamic Orthodox rabbi drove the actor into a prolonged, ongoing examination of Judaism, the religion into which he was born but which he had shunned since adolescence. Much of this volume is taken up with his pleasure in rediscovering the stories of the Torah and re-evaluating his own understanding of Jewish thought. Unfortunately, the emotional openness and intensity that made Douglas a great actor and a satisfying memoirist in the earlier volume are ill-suited to the field of intellectual argument. His almost boyish enthusiasm is sometimes entertaining but more often grating, and on the whole, the book does an unintentional disservice to the elegance and subtlety of Jewish theology. The result is often embarrassing in its chauvinism and its clichâ-riddled recountings of Bible stories. Douglas also displays--in at least one instance--a slavish adherence to the Likud Party line on recent events in Israel. Readers looking for more of the candor of The Ragman's Son will find it, but this is a deeply disappointing book.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1997
ISBN: 068486584X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster