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I do not usually read biographies but I was recently told to do so by a friend who suggested it might inspire me. When I went to my local library I had no clue about whose life I might like to read about until I saw this Michael J. Fox book on the shelf. I, like many others, was a young fan of Michael's after he commanded attention with some of his classic roles in the 1980's. He was basically my first celebrity crush whose face was pinned up on my bedroom wall. I then followed his career as time went by and was saddened when he announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. I was later surprised that he continued to act after this disgnosis and also that he became so vocal in politics and in particular the stem cell research debate. I thought this book would be a very interesting read considering what the actor has lived through.
When I started the book I noticed it contained several references to his previous memoir 'Lucky Man' which I did not read. It probably helps to have read this memoir but it is not essential to understand the references. However 'Always Looking Up' does jump in at a specific point and is mostly focused on a particular area of Michael's life, namely his experiences with dealing with Parkinson's and what he has been doing since being diagnosed.
The first half of the book is a very detailed account of how Michael dealt with the diagnosis, his actions afterwards and the dealings with people who would come into his life as a result of having this illness. I did think certain stretches of the narrative were a little too musty in places and focused too much attention to explaining who was who in the political world. I also initially thought that the text read a little bit like a manifesto dealing with the notion of why stem cell research is acceptable. However, Michael's dogged campaigning for stem cell research to be undertaken with hopes that it might cure conditions such as Parkinson's is astonishing and admirable. The details of his achievements are outlined in this book. I was very taken aback at just how much he has achieved and how hard he has fought for his own needs and for the needs of others. I did not know until reading the book that he had actually established a Foundation for Parkinson's, for example. The way he discusses setting this foundation up in the book is quite astonishing as he makes it sound like it was a relatively easy thing to have done.
I liked that the latter half of the novel is devoted to more personal aspects of his life. The book is divided into several parts whilst smaller chapters are cut up into scattered time periods. It's like flicking through a book of memories and it makes sense that their recollection is not linear. There are some amazing and shocking stories which include the time period of 9/11. Michael's actions after this terrorist attack says volumes about what kind of person he is and you can't help but respect and admire him. Also included are stories about Christopher Reeve and how his story intertwined with Michael's life. There are also smaller references to other celebrity friends such as Robin Williams which are funny.
The past is also brought to life by references to video footage and interviews which are still accessible now thanks to Youtube. I recommend clicking up on footage that Michael mentions in the book as it can help to recreate the whole picture.
I enjoyed reading in detail about Michael and his family and their faith and how this relates now to the idea of stem cell research. Michael does comment a lot about how people opposing stem cell research have such opinions because of their religious beliefs. He is very respectful of all people though but you can't help but feel his frustration behind the words he choses. I also felt that there was a paradox in some of the things he talks about, that being fate and faith and why everything happens the way it does.
When I finished this book I was left feeling a little bit small to be honest. The narrative ends just before the Obama election. I know that since then the actor has continued to work creatively whilst continuing his work with his foundation. To be quite honest his hard work is breath taking and seems super human to me and I have more respect and admiration for this guy than I ever did. I feel a lot more informed about Parkinson's and reading 'Always Looking Up' has also inspired me to find out more about what stem cell research means and where the campaign is standing in political terms. Reading this book also made me look at myself and ask what should I be lending my voice to, what can I do to make a difference? I have a feeling that there will be more books written by Michael in the future too.
This review also features on the site Ciao!
This book is much better than you think it is going to be!
It is not the usual Hollywood glitz and glamour fest biography, nor is it a sentimental account of the actor's struggle with Parkinsons disease. It is honest, up-front and ultimately a very wise account of how someone at the peak of his profession is struck down and manages to come to terms with his fate.
The best part of the book is the middle part, where the author struggles with the stress of trying to overcome the disease, and keep a hold on his acting career. As a very young sufferer of this very challenging condition, he at first hardly believes what the doctors are telling him. I guess like most sufferers he manages to suppress some of the symptoms with sheer willpower. He takes a long time to accept it himself, and even longer to reveal the illness to others at work and in his family.
He undergoes some fairly traumatic treatment options, in itself an inspirational journey, and his faith in the doctors is palpable. What shines through, though, is how thankful he is to be in a country where such advanced treatments are available, and to have the money to access the very best care. He sees this as a privilege and thinks a lot about others who are not in such a privileged situation. This is probably what keeps him sane, and with feet planted firmly on the ground.
The prognosis for this disease is ulitimately not very good, but there is a lot of variation in the way it progresses with each individual case. Fox shows how to make the best of a bad situation, and shows how good things can come out of even this destiny. He has redrawn his goals and shifted his emphasis more towards family and altruism.
He is a genuinely likable guy, with a wry take on some aspects of life, and a deep human sensitivity, which makes this book a surprisingly good and uplifting read.
I was very interested in reading this biography by Michael J. Fox after loving him in the films that really put him on hte map in his younger years, namely the Back to the Future films which were brilliant. It is sad to see a promising career cut short by a devestating disease. Michael J Fox suffers from Parkinson's disease.
In this book Michael J Fox is just being himself and tells the story in his own words of how he has dealt with the last ten years since being diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. The book itself is broken down into four distinct sections: Work, Politics, Faith and Family.
In this great biography Michael J Fox shows himself in no doubt to be an eternal optimist in the face of personal adversity and troubles. He accounts in detail how he deals with his life now and how his brain wants to do one thing while his body does a completely different thing. He takes everything that is thrown at him in his stride and is very brave with it all. He doesn't hold back though and tells exactly how it is which is good to hear.
This first section of the book is all about what he has done in his acting career and also his tremendous efforts over the years to promote research into his disease through the Michael J Fox foundation.
In this section Michael tells us where he stands politically and is very fair and diplomatic in his views. He is not preaching about the subject, just telling us which standpoint he comes from.
This part of the book is perhaps one of the most interesting. He was very indifferent and not interested in religion at a young age. It almost reminds me of how I was growing up in that my parents used to take me to church every Sunday from an early age but I wasn't bothered one way or the other. However later in life his interest in religion has increased over the years. He married a Jewish girl and he goes through his children's upbringing in the synagogue.
In this section you begin to see Michael as a really good father and a nice down to earth type of guy. Despite all that has been thrown at him in recent years he is very grateful for all he has and can probably be a lesson to us all and a good example of how we should try and live our lives. He admits that he is very lucky and cares for his family deeply
This is well worth a read and definately better than some of the Hollywood style books that come out on the market from actors and actresses
Always Looking Up is a very fitting title to this, the 2nd autobiography by Michael J. Fox. He's a short man, so he's "always looking up", but it's not just that... He's also eternally optimistic and full of hope.
Michael J. Fox is... was... a Hollywood actor cut short (sorry!) in his prime by a devastating disease... Parkinson's Disease. But he's decided that he isn't going to let that stop him! While acting is increasingly difficult to do with the symptoms of PD (Parkinson's Disease), Michael puts his time and effort into campaigning for stem cell research in the hope and optimism that it will one day result in a cure for those suffering with PD and other diseased.
Always Looking Up charts the last 10 years of Michael J. Fox's life (I hadn't realised it had been that long since his first autobiography "Lucky Man").
The book is seperated into themes. It doesn't start in 1999 and end at now, instead it is split into the following subjects: Work, Politics, Faith and Family (but with more imaginative titles!). There is one theme which runs throughout the entire book - Parkinson's Disease - and this is only to be expected. After all, Michael has no choice but to deal with this disease every single day... perhaps, every single moment.
While you might expect a book which is riddled with diseased to be boring and asking "Why Me?", it isn't. Just like Michael often played the fun & likeable characters in enjoyable funs, he injects his humour and like-ability into this book. There isn't a moment of "Why me?", instead he's looking to help others and put a positive spin on things.
I liked the bit in the Prologue of the book in which Michael describes his start to the day and what is involved. (I thought getting myself up in the morning was difficult, but it's nothing to what Michael goes through). He describes how his right hand has "started up again, rotating at the wrist in a circular motion, perfect for what I'm about to do". He says it "compares favourably to the most powerful state-of-the-art electric toothbrush on the market". I have to admit I laughed when I read it! The symptoms of the disease must be incredibly annoying and irritating, yet Michael puts a happy spin on things.
His first autobiography, Lucky Man, has always been one of my most favourite autobiography books and Always Looking Up is a brilliant follow-up. I hope there will be a third autobiography from Michael J. Fox in maybe another 10 years time (if this is possible) and maybe his hopes will have come true and a cure will be on the horizon.
(Also published on my GoodReads.com account).