Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
The same sharp intelligence and self-deprecating wit that made Michael J. Fox a star in the Family Ties TV series and Back to the Future make this a lot punchier than the usual up-from-illness celebrity memoir. Yes, he begins with the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the incurable illness that led to his retirement from Spin City(and acting) in 2000. And yes, he assures us he is a better, happier person now than he was before he was diagnosed. In Fox’s case, you actually might believe it, because he then cheerfully exposes the insecurities and self-indulgences of his pre-Parkinson’s life in a manner that makes them not glamorous but wincingly ordinary and of course very funny. (“As for the question, ‘Does it bother you that maybe she just wants to sleep with you because you’re a celebrity?’ My answer to that one was, ‘Ah…nope.'”)
With a working-class Canadian background, Fox has an unusually detached perspective on the madness of mass-media fame; his description of the tabloid feeding frenzy surrounding his 1988 wedding to Tracy Pollan, for example, manages to be both acid and matter-of-fact. He is frank but not maudlin about his drinking problem, and he refreshingly notes that getting sober did not automatically solve all his other problems. This readable, witty autobiography reminds you why it was generally a pleasure to watch Fox onscreen: he’s a nice guy with an edge, and you don’t have to feel embarrassed about liking him.
It took me a while to get into this one. Like so many people my age, I grew up with Michael J. Fox and seeing him as a selfish star with a drinking problem was a bit hard for me, even if he was talking about it with a sense of humor and honesty. I felt like I knew him, even though I obviously didn’t, and the person he was presenting just didn’t mesh with the image I had of him. It was kind of disillusioning, I guess.
The second half of his story was much more enjoyable to me. He got married, had kids, got his life pulled together. It is also inspiring how he chose to deal with his Parkinson’s, eventually coming out of the closet and helping put a national spotlight on the disease.
His story continues in his new book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.