Library Computer: Review Shatner Autobiography “Up Till Now”

Shatnerology 121: Introduction to Shatner
Each year at the college I teach as a Sociologist, I suggest a class called "Introduction to William Shatner" and I am not joking when I say it would be a dynamic class looking at issues of from aging to Marxist theory. No, really. After reading William Shatner’s autobiography "Up Till Now," I am convinced that his life is symbolic of the United States experience. Ironic for a guy from Canada.

Shatner’s story is the classic immigrant narrative. Plus, Shatner has worked in every entertainment media possible, some at their very start, such as television. He deserves much applause because he is redefining the "senior" experience. Here is a 77 year old Shatner who is charity minded, active with his career and sports, artistically enthusiastic, and energetic. He has starred in such films as The Intruder, perhaps one of the very best films about the tragedies of racism ever made. He has also starred in some bizarre entertainments, from Incubus to Kingdom of the Spiders (Shatner visited such kingdoms before Indiana Jones).

As a self-educated Shatnologist (you can’t actually get credentialed in Shatnology in the United States by colleges or universities…I know, can you believe it?), I describe "Up Till Now" as a fun read, full of details that he has not spoken of before or often. For example, Shatner’s first trip to the United States from Canada was by the unlikely transportation mode of canoe. He talks about the making of plays and films. His interactions with George C. Scott and Lorne Greene are intriguing, especially how Greene’s (the original Commander Adama of Battlestar Galactica) stock advice about uranium cost Shatner his entire life savings of $500. The best thing from a Shatnologist perspective is how much a promise to his father defines who Shatner is an actor and a person.

That isn’t to say the book isn’t without problems. First, the style features an annoying habit, usually two or more times a chapter, of interrupting the narrative with often ridiculous asides and pithy notions. He is telling a good story, then he stops literally in the middle of a sentence and then…Do you like sociology? I do. You can take classes at your college. I really enjoy teaching sociology. Visit my website. Buy my stuff. Ha, isn’t this funny? I am stopping my narrative to show how pithy I am….continues with the narrative. If the theory was this style shows how active Shatner is, it doesn’t work. If it was trying to be funny, it really isn’t. This could be the fault of Shatner’s co-writer for "Up Till Now," David Fisher. Chris Kreski, who worked with Shatner on his previous Star Trek related memoirs, had a much better sense of Shatner’s voice.

The book also doesn’t really say much that is new about Star Trek. To be fair, this is probably a good thing because he has dealt with this topic before in three previous Trek memoirswith great detail. However, there are Trek themes that are emotional and effective, and there is some new revelations. Shatner has great affection for Kirk and Star Trek, obvious by his confusion at the end of the book between himself and Kirk. He talks about how the next Star Trek film doesn’t have Kirk in it, when what he really means is that Shatner isn’t featured. I found this to be charming, actually. Without being too obvious, the book shows how much Leonard Nimoy’s experiences parallel Shatner’s experiences. From Jewish kids growing up during the depression to their acting, their biographies are a romance of friendship and love. It is nice to know that Shatner and Nimoy are best friends. The book details how Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy’s relationship was strained due to financial considerations, with the producer wanting to represent Nimoy for public appearances taking 20% according to Nimoy, and Nimoy not agreeing to the deal because he already had an agent. "Up Till Now" is honest, yet Shatner usually reserves most negative talk about himself. Although, as with the Roddenberry story, the book unfortunately isn’t completely free of salacious details.

Should you buy this book? Well it depends. If you are a Shatnologist, or a fan of Shatner who wishes to learn more about his experiences, then defiantly yes. If you are a Star Trek fan who wants to get Shatner’s behind-the-scenes perspective, then this is a good read and summarizes Trek well. However you may be better off with Shatner’s previous three Trek memoirs: "Star Trek Memories" (which is being re-released this autumn), "Star Trek Movie Memories" and "Get a Life!" And if you don’t Shatner, then why are you even reading this review?


On a personal note, Shatner has provided so much entertainment to myself, my wife, and my son with Star Trek and his various roles. Shatner is always good for a smile or a tear, depending on the character or the situation. We have been at conventions where he makes the audience laugh or lectures where he makes them cry. He is a real entertainer, and there are few actors who can claim such a pedigree as him. Shatner is a role model because by every account of friends and family, from Henry Rollins to Brad Paisley, he accomplishes more in the first few hours of his day than most people do in a week (Chuck Norris, you got nothing on the Shat). During the documentary Shatner in Concert, his son in law describes how he can be enthusiastic and express real joy in the most mundane things. "Lemonade! This the BEST lemonade!" Wouldn’t it be nice we could all be as appreciative. He has brought joy and adventure to us as Captain Kirk, and played no small role in making Star Trek a phenom. The book celebrates much of what makes Shatner great despite some of its flaws. It isn’t a self help book, yet it can help you be enthusiastic about your own lemonade.


Up Till Now is available now in Hardcover and audio

Up Till Now (Hardcover)


Up Till Now (Audio)


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I like lemonade. And I like Shatner.

“Sounds like fun.”

Isn’t the picture on the cover the one they used for the Roast?

Actually, I think the cover is his cousin, Shat Benny.

What I find amusing is that, whether you like him or not (and I think most people do), The Shat is far and away THE MOST covered celebrity on this site. Five Shat stories on the main page right now. And the reason for that is simple – his career is the most active of all the Trek veterans, he enjoys the highest profile, he is at the height of his popularity. When you take that into account, it is easy to see his point about not including him in XI being a baffling decision.

Yeah, I know, ‘Not the story JJ wanted to tell, blah, blah, blah…’. Whatever.

“Be enthusiastic about your own lemonade” is a great catchphrase.

I listen to audiobooks so I’m probably going to get this.

Whether or not you think him a competent actor (and I do), he always has something interesting to say, and in interviews adds a little magic to his stories that make you want to listen. He’s very much a people-person and knows the value (and art) of using his voice as a tool to deliver his points and manipulate mood, that is to say, you could get nearly the same message from a radio interview with him that you might if you could also be face to face with him and witness to his hand gestures, eye movements, and all the other inflections generally associated with speaking. His ability to communicate really is one of his gifts.

Yeah, I’ll go get this today :)

I’m feeling a bit Shatnerotic today. I’ll have to go out and get this.


Oh yes…you’ve got to get it.
Highly recommend the audio version.

I’m updating my list of Shatner pronunciations

You must listen for his delivery of these words:
“human genome”

and now that I’m almost through….a new one….. “a**hole”. Which he seems to pronounce over and over . Most of the time without the “H”.

I love the Shat.


I enjoy your review of the book and you obviously have an affection for the man. I disagree with you on your comments that his aside comments in the middle of a story are done just to show how “pithy” Shatner can be. I also disagree that they are distracting to the flow of the book. It really sends my mind so many places just listening to the stories reconvene after a seperate thought. I think it’s a unique illustrative tool of how his mind works. Very representational of almost being in his head

Of course this is coming from the guy who disagreed with critics, didn’t think it was “random”, and actually enjoyed David Lee Roth’s book. That’s a pretty clever read with many jokes set up for punch lines chapters and chapters ahead. There. I said it. I’m the one who bought it, Dave. And I enjoyed it too

Perhaps the greatest of Shatner’s admirable qualities is his astounding work ethic. Good projects and bad, the man likes to make a living and earn his keep and I really admire that.

Great review. I look forward to this book, sounds like a fun read.

okay… since I am serving as an writer/editor for a military magazine over here in Afghanistan, I have to ask… what is an autobioography?

sorry for being a stinker… (grin)

I still think he was left out of the new film because he’s become synonomous with Denny Crane & Priceline. to this generation instead of the Capt. Kirk persona who we all know & love. JJ was just hedging his bets to reach a broader audience.

THERE’S… someoneonthewing!! Some…THING!!!

I’m a Shatnologist & darn proud of it.

The autobiography is charming, witty, honest & confirms why The Shat is Star Trek’s brightest star (2nd star to the left & straight on til morning).

That far left star in on Orion’s belt.

I have Mr. Shatner’s previous recollections, but am not really that anxious to read the new one. I’m not interested in Boston Legal or any of the other things that he has done to the extent that I want to buy the book. Maybe a library read if it appears locally.
The older I get, the less I care about the actors and the more I care about their performances in the series. Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley were fantastic there and what went on behind the scenes really doesn’t interest me that much.
As for the supporting players, Doohen is unforgettable as Scotty, but the rest could have been played by anybody.

My review of the book from another venue:

I just finished reading Up Till Now and feel inclined to comment. I enjoyed the book enormously, but have some minor complaints. For the last dozen years I’ve taught literature and composition at the college level, so I’m used to carefully examining what I read in terms of style and usage.

The tone of this book is quite different than Bill’s previous autobiographical works. This is presumably due to co-writer David Fisher’s approach and prose style differing from Chris Kreski’s. The earlier books presented a consistent, if somewhat workmanlike, organization and textual style while Up Till Now is more inconsistent and less linear. Like most celebrity memoirs, it appears the book was compiled from Bill’s recorded anecdotal ruminations and numerous sections are presented verbatim in a voice that sounds much like Bill’s. Fisher’s approach was likely to organize the material and provide bridging prose to logically link the anecdotes. Kreski seemed to collate the memories and render the material in his own version of Bill’s voice. Along with editorial tinkering, the different approach would account for the fluctuations of tone in the new book. The informational arrangement is somewhat chronological, mitigated by attempts to also arrange the material thematically. This is always an awkward strategy and I’ve never seen it done with complete success. Someone also had the lamentable idea of frequently interrupting Bill’s many interesting stories with trivial asides and jovial sales pitches for and While we all know Bill as a marvelous pitchman, this technique quickly becomes irksome when frequently repeated on the printed page. Perhaps it will be more effective in the audiobook version. These elements necessarily make for inconsistent reading, and while this is a book of quality, this is also a book to be read in short spurts. Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s certainly readable and without glaring typographical or grammatical problems, but Bill’s earlier memoirs made for more consistent reading from a stylistic perspective. Also, as I’m sure someone must have pointed out by now, the photo from Cannes is missing from the insert section. Although Bill didn’t appear in the animated film, I doubt the empty white box was meant as a joke.

As for the actual content: There’s a nice mix between the oft-repeated familiar stories and new material. As a longtime Shatner fan I’m grateful to have the book and relish the insights it provides. Much of the writing is extraordinary. The section describing Nerine’s alcoholism and death is one of the most beautiful and poignant things I’ve read in a long time. It moved this jaded and critical reader to tears. The insights into Bill’s acting philosophy, his quest for metaphysical meaning and his evolving friendhips with Leonard Nimoy and James Spader are welcome and satisfying.

If anything, the book’s main flaw in terms of content is that it tries to cover too much ground. A career and life as substantial and varied as Bill’s simply cannot be covered in a single 342 page memoir. I would rather this were one of two volumes–the first covering his early life and career up to perhaps the cancellation of the original Star Trek, and the second to cover the years since. It’s too late now, but perhaps Bill might consider another book comprised of anecdotes about his acting jobs through the years (along the lines of the Basil Rathbone story in the book), because a career of his longevity necessarily means they were given short shrift in the present work. The ones here are terrific. So much is covered in this one book that it becomes dizzying at times, but then I imagine Bill’s life is pretty dizzying at times.

In conclusion, even with my minor complaints, I heartily recommend this book to anyone ever touched or amused by a Shatner performance through the years. It’s a unique opportunity to glimpse the soul behind the constantly metamorphizing showman and man that is William Shatner. It’s a fitting epitaph, up till now, for a life that hopefully has many more chapters.

#17: “As for the supporting players, Doohen is unforgettable as Scotty, but the rest could have been played by anybody”

I can think of one lesser supporting player that would say a lot more than ‘oh my’ to that statement : )

I purchased this the day after it came out, and I am enjoying every moment of it. I have read several of Shatner’s Trek books, and also have a copy of Star Trek Movie Memories, and have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I’ve read. He has an easy, conversational style in his memoirs, and the Trek books just feel right since he knows the world so completely.

I must applaud Bill for his tenacity and energy and the spark of passion and life that infuses everything he does. I can’t wait to see what’s next. :)