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Up Till Now by William Shatner (Autobiography)

By SBrown | Books | April 5, 2010 |

By SBrown | Books | April 5, 2010 |

Up till I read his autobiography, I would have said that William Shatner was number one on my list of coolest dudes on the planet. Now, I realize he is only playing the coolest dude on the planet. There is a saying, “Never meet your heroes.” I would like to add, “Cautiously read the autobiography of the dude who you think is the coolest guy on the planet.”

It’s not that I won’t enjoy Shatner’s work in the future, it’s just now I realize he’s actually … human. And an actor. A very funny, intelligent, and interesting actor, but now I can’t be sure what is real and what is marketing. His current image — the quirky spoken word poetry, the self-deprecating humor, the goofy talk-show host — all seems a result of realizing that people … audiences … like that version of him. They give Denny Crane Emmys, so Shatner consciously and deliberately becomes what people want — including a bit of Denny Crane. His current incarnation has been engineered.

He’s an actor. Even when he’s speaking at a convention as William Shatner. Or accepting an award. Or giving an interview. Or walking through the airport. He’s acting.

It must be exhausting.

Up Till Now is a good book. Shatner has been working as an actor for eons and his career spans many phases of interesting culture changes. He started working in TV when it was a new media and his stories of the beginning of the industry provide interesting tidbits of history.

Shatner seems honest. Both about the flops in his career and mistakes in his personal life. He knows there are former co-workers that don’t like him and he accepts at least partial culpability in those relationships. The insecurity and envy of actors (including Shatner) reminded me often of “30 Rock” — Shatner throwing a fit because photographers were doing a feature on Spock in a shared make-up room without Shatner’s permission, or Nimoy not speaking with Shatner — at all — for over a week due to a botched joke.

Shatner (or his co-writer) is a very good storyteller and knows just how much to embellish to stay believable and keep readers hanging on every word of his misadventures involving poker tournaments, horse-riding injuries, epic canoe trips, and poorly planned paintball wars. His wry humor had me giggling out loud throughout the book. Shatner’s voice and his unique speaking style translate well to paper.

Shatner also seems genuinely fascinated by all aspects of life.

I recognize that I’m getting older. And I do think about my own mortality. And what I now know is that there are so many questions to which I’m never going to know the answer. We are born into mystery and we leave life in mystery. We don’t know what transpired before and we don’t know what’s coming ahead. We don’t know what life is. We don’t know even the truth behind the assassination of JFK. Is there a God? What is time? There’s everything we don’t know.

He enjoys learning and trying new things. I doubt the man has ever said “no” to a new opportunity, hence the epic canoe trips and poorly planned paintball wars.

It is a choppy book, though, with some stories sort of crammed in randomly perhaps to make a chapter longer. At times, it feels chaotic and disorienting, and we’re reminded that Shatner is an old man. Or trying too hard.

I’m glad I read Up Till Now, even it adds a little bit of skepticism to my enjoyment of Shatner’s work in the future. He’s still a ridiculously cool dude with the ability to tell a great story.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of SBrown’s reviews, check out the blog, Clever Blog Title with Literary Reference.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.