Hilariously enough, I picked up this audiobook thinking it was a 2016 Audie Award Winner. It’s not. My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business was released in 2011— I was looking for Keep Moving— both of which were written and narrated by Dick Van Dyke. That said, I wasn’t disappointed, but it was apparent that this wasn’t an Audie Award winner as well.
Dick Van Dyke was born in the Depression, and out of those hardships grew into a conscientious, level-headed, religious, family-friendly liberal. Known for his roles in Bye-Bye Birdy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Mary Poppins, Van Dyke was always playing himself both on and off the screen. In fact, after listening to his memoir, one could almost consider Van Dyke’s life to be a continuation of his character Rob Petrie’s life from The Dick Van Dyke Show: A blissfully self-contained world that gradually admits the realities of life while keeping a smile and song nearby.
I have also heard and read various accounts of why [Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner] liked me. My favorites? I wasn’t too good-looking, I walked a little funny, and I was basically kind of average and ordinary. I guess my lack of perfection turned out to be a winning hand. Let that be a lesson for future generations.
Listening to this, I learned much more about Dick Van Dyke’s life than I ever expected to. As a child of the 80’s, I knew some of his works well. However, I never really was into television or the movies, so I was not familiar with the majority of his work. Or the work of his contemporaries. In the earlier portions of this novel, when Van Dyke reviewed his major work in TV and film, he introduced many actors, actresses, producers, and directors. But he did so in a way that implied all Americans should know these names. Honestly, it made me feel left out. It was similar to name-dropping, but instead of showing off, Van Dyke was just sharing the facts.
Unfortunately, I was not impressed with Van Dyke’s writing style. He told his life mostly in chronological order, but sometimes jumped into the future to make a connecting point. It was a challenge to follow sometimes. I love listening to memoirs read by their authors because I hear so much more raw emotion in them. I get to hear how the words were intended to be heard. That said, I was not particularly emotionally affected by Van Dyke’s story. Divorce, alcoholism, the unexpected death of his granddaughter– all of these were told with the inflection of one who cares, but was unattached. The lack of impact from Van Dyke’s words made me realize this was not the Audie Award winner I had expected.
You do your best, then take your chances. Everything else is beyond your control.
In the end, I’m glad I listened to this book. This is an amazing man who really pushed for family-friendly comedy in a world where violence and sex was becoming the mainstay. He had his highs and lows, and it’s obvious that Dick Van Dyke is just a man. But he is a good man, and he’s constantly striving to make the world the best place it can be. He’s not overly driven, but that also made me relate to him– you can be successful without pushing yourself over the edge.
I certainly recommend this to any fans of Dick Van Dyke. Perhaps I’ll even get to reading Keep Moving someday. It’ll be nice to compare the two memoirs and see if I get anything new out of it.
What do you think?
- Have you read this book, or Keep Moving? What did you think?
- What are your experiences with Dick Van Dyke’s works?
- Have you ever read a memoir and been surprised at how honest, open, and genuine a person was? If so, what memoir?