Picks and Pans Review: Out on a Limb

updated 07/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Shirley MacLaine

In her two earlier books, Don't Fall Off the Mountain and You Can Get There From Here, the actress-dancer provided an appealing self-portrait of a successful movie star learning about the world and herself. In this new autobiographical book, she is as unapologetic as ever. She tells about her globe-spanning affair with a man she describes as a British Member of Parliament named Gerry. (She admits that's a camouflage description; the real lover is neither a Gerry nor a British M.P.) Despite the fact that he had a wife and children, MacLaine pursued him ardently, but seems unhappy that nothing much came of their secret love. Her main concern in Out on a Limb, however, is, of all things, reincarnation, with special emphasis on mediums—people who serve as "channels" for voices of the dead. MacLaine tracks down mediums in Sweden and Peru and writes portentously of their babbling. A young man who dresses like a classic Western gentleman in L.A. goes into a trance and converses with her in weird voices about religion, extraterrestrials and her other incarnations; she seems to believe the voices are not his, but those of dead people. A scene with the late Peter Sellers details how he convinced her he had been oft reincarnated. Then MacLaine expects readers to believe that a year and a half later she had a jolt of awareness the moment Sellers, a continent away, died. Besides the fact that MacLaine is dealing with hogwash, she has cluttered the book with sentences such as: "To feel emotionally starved because of the lack of overt clarity and discernible communication was to deny the inner richness of communicating with silence." Out on a Limb is a silly bore. (Bantam, $15.95)

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