Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" by Michael J. Fox

Yeeees, another library book. When will I learn? Probably about the time I finish up my TBR list. Which means probably about never.

I read about this book in Reader's Digest. Like any good little American girl who grew up mostly in the 80s, I had a great big ol' crush on Alex Keaton. (That is, until I found out that Michael J. Fox was, like, old. Not that my "chances" for getting a date with him would have improved much had we been closer in age.) My former crush on still-boyishly-handsome Fox, in combination with my own incurable (or, to some, unendurable) optimism, made me snatch up this book as soon as I saw it on the shelf at my local library.

This book is basically a memoir that spans the past 10 years of Fox's life. It is divided into four sections: work, politics, faith and family. Fox later describes these as his four pillars. This got me to thinking. (And, by the way, I absolutely love it when a book manages to do that). What are the pillars of my life? I would definitely describe two of mine as faith and family, but so far I haven't really been able to decide what else in my life might be described as a pillar. (All I know is "politics" and "work" would not be it for me). I am a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of a two-pillar life, because that doesn't seem stable enough; but at the moment, nothing else comes to mind that has the robust aspect of a pillar. I will have to ruminate further on that point. So, back to my thoughts on the book.

During the first of four sections ("Work"), as I read about the Fox family's vacation in Provence and Paris, I found myself alternating between annoyance at the offhand way he was tossing out references to his amazingly posh life, and nearly salivating at this opportunity to sneak a glimpse into the Real Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Hanging out with Lance Armstrong and Robin Williams? Check. Living for several weeks in a French villa actually owned by literal royalty? Check. Flying from Paris to New York in three hours the day before the deadly crash that ended the era of the Concorde? Oh my gosh! But, check.

Most of the "work" section centered around Fox's transition from actor to Parkinson's activist. I was a little bit disapointed that, though he writes about the vast sums of money that the Michael J. Fox Foundation has poured into research, he mentions nothing about any sort of success or headway towards finding a cure. I would have been interested in reading at least a few scientific details, even if they only led towards dead ends or an uncertain future.

The "work" section segued neatly into the "politics" section, as stem cell research has been a ray of hope (for Parkinson's patients as well as many others) while also quite politically charged. I was impressed by how respectful Fox was of those whose political ideology differs from his. I am not interested in using this forum to express my political leanings, but Fox's desire to have restrictions lifted from stem cell research is such a common theme throughout the book that it caused me to attempt to solidify and define my previously amorphous stance on the topic. Here is what I find I have to say: First, I believe the (however unlikely) possibility of growing actual entire humans for use as replacement parts is unethical, but I don't think those who advocate stem cell research are suggesting that this be done. I am all for legislature to keep this from happening in the future, and though Fox doesn't actually come out and say so, I feel certain he would think the same way. Second, if in vitro fertilization is not wrong, how can using the byproducts (excess embryos which would be discarded anyway) be wrong? Yeah, I know that my stance is still pretty amorphous, but at least it's not nonexistant.

Where I find I do disagree with Fox somewhat is in his support of political candidates who are pro-stem-cell-research based solely on that issue. Sure, it's not like we have Hitler running for office here, but it's kind of like my discomfort with having only two "life pillars." Supporting a candidate based on only one "pillar" is not to my liking. On the other hand, I bet I would feel differently if stem cell research struck closer to home for me.

All in all, from what I gathered in reading this book, Michael J. Fox seems like a geuninely good guy with his feet on the ground and his head in the right place. It's encouraging to see someone with so much passion and drive in his position. Even if I am jealous about the castle in Provence.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I meant to mention my favorite quote from the book. This is paraphrased a little bit, but the general idea is the same; this is something that MJF learned from his mom, and it is so true. "One of the many gifts of parenting: some of the best friends you'll ever meet in your life, you'll meet through your children."