Audition
by Barbara Walters


Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-26646-0.
Reviewed by Donna Van Straten Remmert
Posted on 10/10/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events

In the Prologue of this fascinating memoir, Barbara Walters explains that one of her motivations for writing about her life was that young people starting out in television sometimes said to her: "I want to be you." Barbara's stock reply was: "Then you have to take the whole package."

In Audition, Barbara brilliantly reveals her "whole package," including the love mixed with resentment she felt toward her mentally challenged sister Jackie, her "rags to riches" childhood inspired by her brilliant and mercurial impresario of a father, her frustrated and conflicted mother, her amazing career in television, the adoption of her beloved daughter Jackie whose teen years were tumultuous, and yes, her three marriages and many more affairs.

I have always liked Barbara's blunt approach: getting personal with the hundreds of ordinary (and often infamous) people, politicians, and show-biz celebrities she interviewed. I had fantasized a career in television during its infancy in the 1950s, but like so many other women of my era, thought my gender (among other things) would make it impossible. So I chose to read Audition, to help me learn what I had missed. I applaud Barbara Walters for her achievements and for having the chutzpah to tell her readers more than just the glamorous parts of her life story. My only complaint is that each time Walters mentioned an interview she'd done with world leaders, I wanted to see it again. (At the end of her book, I did note that some of her interviews are being broadcast on Sirius radio, so they are still available.)

In a recent interview, Oprah Winfrey asked Walters: "What does being "Barbara Walters" mean?" Walters' answer illustrates what I thought was special about her memoir—her ability to get personal and tell the truth without mincing words:

"I'm not sure. I realize how blessed I have been but sometimes I still feel inadequate. I don't cook. I can't drive. Most of the time, when I look back on what I've done, I think: Did I do that? Why didn't I enjoy it more? Was I working too hard to see?"

Oprah's eyes teared up at this. She and every other hard-working woman of this era know all that they've had to give up in order to achieve.

The overall lesson from Barbara Walter's fine book: be conscious of the price you'll pay for success in any arena, including motherhood—and if this is still what you want, go for it.


Barbara Walters is the first woman to co-host a network news program. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. An ABC News correspondent, she is also host of The Barbara Walters Specials and the creator, co-host, and co-executive producer of ABC Daytime's The View. She lives in New York City.

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