Lessons in Becoming Myself

Lessons in Becoming Myself

4.0 9
by Ellen Burstyn

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By the time Ellen Burstyn arrived in New York to study acting, she'd already worked as a Texas fashion model, a Montreal chorus girl, suffered numerous toxic relationships, and just as many name changes and spiritual paths. Theater legend Moss Hart called her "a natural" but Ellen Burstyn was still trying discover who she was. This is the graceful story of a personal


By the time Ellen Burstyn arrived in New York to study acting, she'd already worked as a Texas fashion model, a Montreal chorus girl, suffered numerous toxic relationships, and just as many name changes and spiritual paths. Theater legend Moss Hart called her "a natural" but Ellen Burstyn was still trying discover who she was. This is the graceful story of a personal and professional quest, a life-long journey-by turns triumphant and terrifying, tragic and funny, thoughtful and illuminating.

Editorial Reviews

Actress Ellen Burstyn could fill a book with her Broadway and Hollywood memories, but Lessons in Becoming Myself is more than a stagy reprise of her eventful career. As the title suggests, this memoir reflects on her quest for personal meaning and fulfillment. Because of this focus, she dwells on personal relationships as much as on film and theatrical triumphs. In fact, her search for spiritual equilibrium is at the very root of this soulful book.
Library Journal

Burstyn's autobiography resembles a Hollywood film, complete with an abusive, self-centered mother, sexual predator father, and failed marriages. The Oscar and Tony Award winner reflects on her life and career here, exposing all the pain and difficulty as she moves toward spiritual and creative fulfillment. Born Edna Rae Gillooly, she left home at 18, first working as a model in Detroit and then taking a bus to Manhattan to try for a career in acting. After some lean times, she eventually met acting guru Lee Strasberg and became a student of his method acting, a technique that helped propel her into prominence. She distinguished herself in such films as The Last Picture Show, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and Same Time Next Year, in a role she also played on Broadway. Despite her professional success, Burstyn struggled with personal relationships; she married Neil Burstyn, a psychotic who stalked and threatened her even after they were divorced. Of primary interest, though, is Burstyn's ability to persevere against difficult odds and learn from her mistakes as she strives for knowledge and spiritual meaning. At times the abridgment makes for some abrupt and confusing content shifts, but overall the book is an enjoyable mix of insider film talk and New Age ideas. Burstyn reads in a pleasant though clearly mature voice, providing a convincing touch of reality. Recommended for large collections.
—Nancy R. Ives

Kirkus Reviews
Long-winded memoir of an actress preoccupied with her own psychic structure and spiritual side. Burstyn, best remembered for her roles in the films The Exorcist and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, chronicles the successes of her career on stage and screen, her difficulties in relating to men, her failures in marriage and her never-ending search for self-understanding. First, though, there's the unhappy childhood with a much-married mother. Desperate to get away, she left home on her 18th birthday, in 1950, working as a model in Texas and a chorus girl in Montreal before heading to New York, where, in 1957, she landed a lead in a Broadway play. Already, inner voices were guiding her acting, but her private life was a shambles, with her second marriage ending in divorce in 1962. Burstyn married again in 1964, and this toxic relationship and the effects on her of her husband's mental breakdown are the subject of much of this work. A lapsed Catholic, she was attracted to Sufi mysticism and fell for a time under the sway of a guru with a compelling line of spiritual psychobabble that seems to have influenced her own writing. By the '70s, she describes herself as being "in the embryonic stage of giving birth to my own self in life." With her acting career at its peak in that decade, her inner life was focused on spiritual concerns, especially the nature of a feminine god. Ashrams, psychic nutritionists and healers, channeling, fasting, meditation-they all come into play in Burstyn's continuing search for self-knowledge, which has involved not just domestic retreats but journeys to England, Switzerland, Turkey, Ireland, Bhutan and Cambodia. Among details she provides of her acting career,perhaps the most revealing concern her filming of The Exorcist. The actress proudly describes her refusal to say scripted lines because as an actress, she has created a living character and knows better than anyone what that character would and would not say. Movie buffs, Burstyn fans, would-be actresses and perhaps fellow seekers of self-realization may relish this self-absorbed narrative. Agent: David Vigliano/David Vigliano Associates

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
870 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet 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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Lessons in Becoming Myself 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ellen Burstyn's journey through life and through her spirit are believable and inspiring. She shares her pain and her triumphs. She shares her spiritual growth - its ups and downs. Though not a strickly Christian path, a path that does lead to a stronger faith in a supreme being and his son, Jesus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend shared this book with me. I was familiar with Ms Brustyn before but would now call myself a true fan. The book inspired me to see all her movies and has given me a new respect. She has found her own path and is an admirable example for others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ellen B. has clearly had an interesting life but the book itself never takes itself off the ordinary - no great enlightenment, no real highes or lows, just a rather dispassionate telling of a story. She is a great actress so I will continue to enjoy her on the stage and screen and skip the page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
After seeing Ellen Burstyn on Oprah, I looked so forward to reading it. I was disappointed. I found it to be boring and to go on and on about finding her spirituality. She is very hippy-ish. I wouldn't recommend the book although I do love Ellen's movies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down and read it in a couple of days Ms Burstyn in writing her memoir takes us with her on her adventures to far away places her search for spirtual insights and her life as a Hollywood and Broadway star..a life filled with passion and a constant quest for truth. She is a remarkable woman who lives a remarkable life. I loved her movies and I now love her. I highly recommend her book you will not be disappointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some parts of this book will have you very appreciative about your own childhood. Ms. Burstyn has endured many hardships, both from her mother and stepfather, and also from her marriage to Neil Burstyn. I feel pity for her, except for one fact. She seemed to leave her son, Jefferson, behind much of the time, as she was out seeking 'truth.' She did seem to have a good relationship with him, though, and overall I had a good feeling about her. I just think she could have put her son at a higher priority in her life. But, on the whole, I really enjoyed reading about her life and although a bit long, it was a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a journey. This is an awesome book by an awesome lady. I highly recommend getting the cd's.