``People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life.'' This is Martha Graham, all right: intense, imperious, passionate, and at times surprisingly funny. She died early this year, still choreographing, still bitterly protesting old age, still fretting over her company's financial and artistic future. This, her own account of her life and work, is her vivid last word. Graham was born in 1894 (``Grover Cleveland was in his second presidential term...Victoria was still Queen''), in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. She reveals herself as a solitary, dramatic child in an unusual family: ``My childhood years were a balance of light and dark...the coal industry was dominant and everything we wore was eventually covered in soot.'' She takes us through her development as a dancer and choreographer, and is open and focused about the motivation and meaning of her work: ``There are always ancestral footsteps behind me, pushing me...gestures are flowing through me.'' On the strong female roles she has created: ``All the things I do are in every woman. Every woman is a Medea. Every woman is a Jocasta....'' This is not to say that men are not important to Graham: ``Men in all walks of life have sustained me. I adore men. Many have adored me.'' Many other choreographers and figures from the dance world figure here (her remarks on Lincoln Kirstein are priceless), as well as such varied personalities as Helen Keller, Madonna, and Halston. And Graham offers an honest, touching account of her brief marriage to choreographer Erick Hawkins; she tells us simply, ``There never was anyone after Erick.'' Paramount Pictures once offered a large sum to film her life story, Graham says. But she replied, ``No, absolutely not. I can ruin my own reputation in five minutes. I don't need help.'' These brief memoirs can only enhance her reputation by helping us remember the human side of a creative giant.