Friday, April 16, 2010

"Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned"

I just finished reading a new book by Michael J. Fox, entitled "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned." I admit to having purchased it because of the title, which is one I might have written myself...and not only the content, but the style. As those of you who've stuck with me awhile know all too well (sorry, guys!), I'm pretty fond of rhyming my titles. In fact, sometimes I have to consciously stop myself from going there. Becoming a one-trick pony is never a good thing, but becoming a literary one-trick pony is a writer's death knell.

Michael J. Fox has written several books, and I can't imagine him ever being a one-trick pony. What a complex and interesting personality he is! At once irreverent and respectful, his unerring radar for the ridiculous is tempered by a profound sense of the sacred. With personal life experience as his guide, Fox does a good job of presenting what amounts to a literal and figurative commencement address, 112 pages that are well-suited to young and old alike. (I can't say that I had any real aha moments, but I did thoroughly enjoy myself, nodding vigorously at various times and frequently smiling with delight at a particularly apt expression of truth as I know it.) More importantly, I found myself thinking that I wanted to share portions of the book with my children because I thought his "voice" might be more easily heard than mine on certain subjects. In all candor, I should also note that Fox uses mild profanity a handful of times (namely the word equivalents of donkey, excrement, and the opposite of heaven)––nothing that would keep me from presenting the book to my children, but enough that it did give me pause for a moment.

The book is billed as the "perfect" graduation gift, and I would agree almost wholeheartedly, with that minor language caveat. A good rule of thumb might be to use the anticipated audience as your guide. It does seem a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I think I'd probably feel comfortable giving the book to pretty much anyone 16 or older––though I would personally feel the need to include a jokey-yet-serious disclaimer about the language in my customary book inscription.

I can see myself giving the book to certain adults, too. "A Funny Thing Happened..." could resonate with a person of any age who is transitioning from one phase of life to the next...or one who has transitioned...or will transition. In short, the book is applicable to most anyone, and I recommend it nearly without reservation. (How's that for an oxymoron?)

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, the first of which is attributed by Fox to Coach John Wooden (UCLA basketball) and the second to Gary Goldberg (creator and producer of Family Ties):

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
– John Wooden

[Speaking of Fox] "All I know is I write him two jokes, he gets me three laughs."
–Gary Goldberg (I like this idea of always taking what you have and making more of it.)

But Michael J. Fox's own quotes are the best ones offered in his book:

"Life is good, and there's no reason to think it won't be––right up until the moment when everything explodes into a fireball of tiny, unrecognizable fragments, or it all goes skidding sideways, through the guardrail, over the embankment, and down the mountain. This will happen (and probably more than once). What I've just described may be shocking coming from me, given my reputation as an optimist. Although I like the identification, it's not exactly the way I would characterize my outlook. I think I am a realist. The reality is that things change; the question is, how will I perceive that change, and am I willing to change along with it? It may seem hard to believe, but it's catastrophe that offers the most promise for an even richer life. This is the gateway to the good stuff. In other words, you never truly know which way the wind is blowing until the s*@# hits the fan. And further, if you don't mind getting a little dirty, that breeze will carry you a long way."

Rather surprisingly, considering the undeniably coarse (but unerringly descriptive) nature of its last two sentences, that previous quote reminds me of my favorite scripture: "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:11-13).

"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectation."

"Loss is not a vacuum. If I don't impulsively try to fill the space it creates, it gradually begins to fill itself, or at least, present choices."

"Don't spend a lot of time imagining the worst case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice. When things do go bad, don't run; don't hide. Stick it out, and be scrupulous in facing every part of your fear. Try to be still. It will take time, but you'll find that even the gravest problems are finite...and that your choices are infinite."

"Remember, that though you, alone, are responsible for your own happiness, it's still okay to feel responsible for someone else's."

Enough of the preview. If you like what you've seen, give the whole book a whirl. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future..." is pretty much a thumbs up from me. Will I keep it for my own library? Probably not. But I will absolutely give it to a few graduates...and may even keep some copies on hand for friends who are experiencing, as Michael would say, a period in life where waste product is blowing through their lives a little more strongly than usual.

And yes, I have a poem for that...

Of all the people
in the world
millions of guys
zillions of girls
of all the animals
there are
from Timbuktu
to Zanzibar
of all the statues
ever raised
to villains feared
or heroes praised
of all the buildings
ever built
that stand up straight
or even tilt
of all the car tops
ever made
from fiberglass
to steel
to suede
why did it have to
land on me
not on the ground
not on a tree
not on the street
or at my feet
but on my head
with liquid dread
I must exclaim
at the deadly aim
of the dreadful turd
of that dreadful bird

(As you can see, I'm not above a little crassness myself to make my point...)



karen said...

I'm going to get that book. I wonder if I can Kindle it...? It sounds like a good fast read with more than one quotable quote. It sounds like just about anyone could benefit.
I like your bird turd poem. I will send it over to LaMar, who apparently was sitting under a, shall we say, "prolific" bird yesterday. We washed quite a mess off his car last night! Bullseye right on the door handle too. Yuck!

Sue said...

Yes, Karen. It's available on Kindle.


PS. Sorry to heat about LaMar's "prolific" bird experience. ;)

jen said...

I've heard that in some cultures it's good luck to get squirted by a bird.

Lisalulu said...

LOVE IT, the quotes ya know! and.. you can wait a long time for a bird to squirt someone and when they do you politely say... "they sing for most people."

Karen said...

I love the poem! You are such a clever girl.

I will have to pick up this book - sounds like a good read, thanks for the heads up.

Momza said...

Well I like Michael J. Fox, I always have. I enjoyed the quotes you shared. I like J. Wooden's quote so much, I'm putting it on the plate on fridge--you know the one, right?
Experience is a grand teacher.
Or like Edgar Guest wrote,
"I'd rather see a sermon than hear one anyday."

Happy Weekend Sue!
p.s. Where's your Glamour Shot?? hmmmmm?

Laraine Eddington said...

You write a fine book review. Thanks for the heads up.

Darlene said...

I agree with Laraine, you do write a fine book review. I like Michael J. Fox, but if anyone might have suggested that I should read his book, I don't think I would have given it a second thought. But, having said that, you do make the prospect of reading it sound pretty enticing. I'll have to make a point of reading it.

I have always thought that poem was clever. Such a clever daughter have I.

Beck said...

Oh Sue! What a lovely post! And what a wonderful poet you are, too!

Jill said...

I appreciate the review on this book because I had been thinking of reading it. His last book I didn't read because I think it was the history of his illness, which I had read many excerpts about already. But this book sounds like more of his feelings, and just how he does keep going.

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