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Not as good as its predecessor...
on 22 June 2017
On the whole, I like Michael J. Fox. The work he’s done in the last 30+ years – in TV, movies and for Parkinson’s – is admirable. He’s brought a great deal of joy to countless people’s lives with his film and TV work, whilst his dedication to developing a cure for Parkinson’s is nothing short of commendable. His determination to continue working and living his life on his terms no matter what, gives others in a similar situation the hope they often need that receiving a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road.
Having read his previous book ‘Lucky Man’ (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I was very much looking forward to reading ‘Always Looking Up’. The synopsis for the book seemed to promise a follow-on of sorts, with the suggestion that the reader would learn more about how Michael has been coping and adapting since his initial diagnosis in the early ‘90s. Sadly though, I found ‘Always Looking Up’ to be far removed from its predecessor and as a result, I struggled to finish it.
Whereas ‘Lucky Man’ was very personable in tone – detailing his early life before PD, how he learnt to live and work with the condition post-diagnosis, the unfaltering support from friends and family, etc – ‘Always Looking Up’ takes a much more aggressive and stripped back approach. There are small references to family life (Fox’s description of a typical morning living with PD is particularly insightful), but for the most part the book concentrates on the political issues he’s encountered surrounding stem cell research and the important part he believes it plays in developing a cure for PD. These parts are difficult to follow at times, often going off on tangents and referencing specific policies and/or individuals which are clearly important in the American political arena, but don’t make much sense to anyone on the outside looking in.
Another aspect is the seemingly constant name dropping. At some points in the book it becomes nothing more than a ‘Who’s Who of Hollywood’. And although I appreciate this is the world Fox lives and works in, the constant references to his famous friends, the glitzy parties, flying by Concorde and staying in fancy 5 star hotels, didn’t endear me to him. There’s no denying or avoiding the fact that he’s a famous actor with the money and privileges that inevitably come with that, but the constant references felt a little too much like bragging for my liking. Also, there’s around 5-6 pages almost solely dedicated to Fox’s hero worship of Lance Armstrong, which made for uncomfortable reading given what we now know about the athlete.
If you’re interested in the political side of PD – particularly in relation to American policies – and don’t mind a rather one-sided view of proceedings, then you might enjoy this. However, for me ‘Lucky Man’ is by far the superior book and the one I would recommend reading if you’re looking for a more personal viewpoint. ‘Always Looking Up’ is too self-indulgent and not focused enough in its delivery to make for an enjoyable or truly insightful read. In my opinion it could easily have been condensed into a 3-4 page special report for a magazine which would have told a better, more succinct and informative story.