Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review: “Up Till Now” by William Shatner with David Fisher

This Shat is Good Reading…

Some take only a couple of hours to read a book. Some take days or at most weeks. Me? I finished William Shatner’s Autobiography, “Up Till Now” in over half a year. That’s right, six months and three days from the moment I opened it until I turned the last page of prose.

But that by no means should imply that “Up Till Now” is a lousy read. On the contrary, it was a damn good book.

So why so long? Well see… the entire thing was written in a most conversational manner. Thus, making “Up Till Now” wonderful company during those lonely bus rides to Baguio City when Malou the wifey and Marge the baby didn’t join me for usual tour of duty.

So simply put, I saved the pages for company when I needed it most. And given how I’ve overplayed Shat’s Ben Folds-produced “Has Been” CD to the point of memorizing many of the songs, and after almost five seasons of Boston Legal (as of this writing, I’m only a couple of episodes into Season Five…), “Up Till Now” was made even more enjoyable for me since I almost automatically “heard” the book in my head with Shat’s trademark spoken word baritone phrasing.

"...Shatner never fails to happily remind the reader that he (Shatner) knows that he is best-known as Captain Kirk, and that his supposedly best days are behind him...."

In fact, it was almost like having scotch and cigars with Shat out on Denny Crane’s balcony after a long day. And you don’t rush a dear friend who’s telling you the story of his life.

But enough with intros and excuses… on to the review…!

* * * * *

Like most times, I pick up a Shatner product out of curiosity as to what he’ll do next, while expecting to be entertained by his mock indignations, which is topped off by his humorous self-deprecation.

And here in “Up Till Now,” like always, he delivers.

(Before anything else, I must state on record that in this book’s title is a pet peeve of mine. Not too ago, people began abbreviating “until” into “’til.” Which is understandable. Then some idiot/s started spelling the abbreviation as “till,” which is just plain WRONG. “Till” is a verb. It’s what a farmer does to land, dammit. But sadly, it’s commonness in usage has led to this grave error being an “acceptable” spelling… truly, the art in language is dying…”)

Shat, with help from novelist David Fisher takes the reader through an almost chronological recount of practically every stage of his career. From his early days as a bit player, to his struggles as an actor so poor he had to live in car. As a victim of a handful of bad breaks, including his game show filler days, to his slow rise to real stardom and nigh-ubiquity as Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. He also talks about his many shows, from the early “Defenders,” to “Barbary Coast,” “T.J. Hooker,” to “Rescue 911.” All while always dipping into his Star Trek chest at every opportunity.

Shat fans (like your truly) who’ve never picked up a bio on the erstwhile on-screen starship captain will find a lot of amusing anecdotes in “Up Till Now.” Some of which include some big stars of the stage like Walter Mattheau, up and coming hottie Heather Locklear, and many more.

Shat also takes us through the painful (and fateful) occurrences throughout his marriage with the late Nerine, and opens his then-bleeding heart to the reading stranger. Up to his search for and courtship to his wife, Lisbeth. Shat glosses over Boston Legal, and makes his sheer joy at the current state of his life shine right through the pages.

Throughout the book, Shatner never fails to happily remind the reader that he (Shatner) knows that he is best-known as Captain Kirk, and that his supposedly best days are behind him. This he does through frequent digressions from his topic on hand in the form of hawking Star Trek memorabilia through his website . Not too different from how an old man’s thoughts fly off mid-conversation, further reinforcing the conversational feel of the book. But Shat strips himself down to his bare soul while talking about his many near-misses, and how he makes no qualms about enjoying the level of fame and popularity he now has. He knows he can be the biggest joke if he lets himself be it. But rather than watch you laugh at him, Shat hangs his own picture on the wall, and joins you on the couch as you both laugh along at it.

Added bonuses are the pages of photos from many stages in Shat’s very colorful career. One of which even made my wife exclaim that she didn’t expect Captain Kirk to have been as handsome as he was as a young man.

Without knowing how much of the words are truly Shat’s and which passages were by David Fisher, one still finds many lines that show many facets of an actor who has more than paid his dues.

On his childhood…
“I was a lonely kid. I’d walk to school by myself… I would send myself valentines… those would be the only ones I would receive…”

LA Comedy Club
“…it will be funny because they will get that I’m Captain Kirk who thinks he’s funny, but he’s not funny, which is why he will be funny…”

On his early acting…
“…until that day, I didn’t know there were nineteen different ways to say no. Is that how you want me to say it? No. No? No. You mean no? Yes…”

On directing
“…on a film set, the director isn’t God – he’s the one who tells God to run across the parking lot, leap onto the hood, and grab hold of the wipers and hold on…”

On marriage
“…what happens is that the person without power loses their self-respect, their whole entity becomes less, and the reasons their partner fell in love with them disappear…”

As with most things related to William Shatner, fans pick them up out of blind loyalty, while others might browse through it just to marvel at how this oddball still manages to be lucky enough to have a major career at this stage in his life.

But whichever one you are, I must recommend this book if only for its sheer entertainment value as the story of the struggles and eventual triumph of a man who started as an actor, and now stands as among the icons of popular culture.

1 comment:

Leona Raisin said...

Since you mention Boston Legal, name the star trio on the show > [Mad Spa Jeers] + [Narwhal Elitism] + [Beg Nice Dancer]. Play today's TV anagram game.