Tuesday, September 09, 2008

William Shatner autobiography - Up Till Now

Up Till Now — The Autobiography
by William Shatner (with David Fisher)
Hardcover, 358 pages, $ 25.95
Published by St. Martin's Press, 2008

William Shatner, best known as Captain James Tiberius Kirk on Star Trek, has written a hilarious autobiography, the funniest show-biz tell-all since Act One by the legendary Moss Hart. Much of Shatner's book features anecdotes from his 50-year career on stage, screen and television. Between the funny stories you'll find glimpses of Shatner's personal lives, his four marriages, his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, tips about the art and craft of acting, and his long struggle to make a living in the acting profession. The sixteen pages of photos (near the middle of the book) show Shatner in some of his classic and classiest moments: as Alexei in The Brothers Karamazov; gaping at a monster destroying a plane's wing in a popular episode of The Twilight Zone; on the deck of the Starship Enterprise with the enterprising crew members; and dressed as a pink flamingo in Boston Legal, where he portrayed the brash attorney, Denny Crane.

If you like Shatner the actor, you'll love Shatner the man. Inspired by a collaboration with author-filmmaker Michael Tobias, Shatner experienced a transformative moment at the foot of Mt. Everest, and then became a dedicated environmentalist. His nonprofit work ranges from contributions to a summer camp for needy Los Angeles children, to funding Friendly House, a treatment center for alcoholic women. His energy and efforts, preparing for his day's work, were peerless; his commitment to quality was rare. He writes:
"And I treated each of those parts as if they were equally significant; my work ethic is such that I never made a distinction between an important job and an unimportant job."

Hold on to your chair -- or you may exit laughing -- when Shatner describes his meeting with Koko, an unusually large and surprisingly amorous female gorilla. Humor pervades the book, yet there is no shortage of tender moments. Shatner's description of the death by drowning of his third wife, Nerine, is thoroughly heart-breaking.

Shatner has the courage and good sense to laugh at himself. Again and again, he does. He even laughs at his critics, including one who had the bad judgment to describe an early performance of Captain Kirk as "wooden." (There can be no greater insult than calling a performance "wooden", unless the character being played is named Pinocchio.) Always, Shatner is passionately driven: nothing can stop this determined man from working: his inner fire is undimmed by failures, by fiascoes, by advancing age. The spirit of the book reminded me of some words by Hokusai, from a work titled, The Art Crazy Old Man:

"When I reach [the age of] a hundred my work will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained at the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life."

Shatner's acting has always been light years away from "wooden". And his superb autobiography is far more than a good comedy. The book reveals the whole man, a man imbued with warmth and sincerity, compassion and playfulness.

Michael Pastore

== Story Links ==

William Shatner's Website


Hollywood Charity Horseshow


Friendly House (Shelter for Women Alcoholics)