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Still Me by Christopher Reeve

Still Me (1998)

by Christopher Reeve

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On May 27, 1995, actor Christopher Reeve was competing in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia when he was thrown from his horse, causing a C2 spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic for nine years until his death in 2004.

The heartbreaking irony is not merely that an actor best known to the general public as Superman was left permanently disabled. The worst part was that Reeve did not even want to be at this particular competition in Culpeper that weekend. He had originally planned to compete in Vermont.

Such begins the memoir of a man I've looked up as a hero since the age of seven when I first saw Superman: The Movie. Reeve opens his life story at a point where he had been certain his life would end, delving into excruciating detail about the damage inflicted on his body and mind as a result of the accident. At one point, after receiving the initial news of his condition, he urged his wife, Dana, to let him go. She replied that she would do so only if that was what he truly wanted, but reminded him that, "You're still you and I'm still me." According to Reeve, that was all he needed to hear to bolster his will to live.

However, a true of man of steel cannot be kept down and despite the odds against him, despite the many post-accident setbacks, despite the personnel and equipment necessary to keep him alive and as healthy as possible, Reeve persevered. He went on to make several public speeches advocating an increase in funding for the NIH and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also directed the critically acclaimed and award-winning 1997 film, In the Gloaming, starring Glenn Close, David Strathairn, Bridget Fonda, Robert Sean Leonard, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Interspersed with tales of his treatment and battles with insurance companies, Reeve takes us on a tour of his broken family life as a child, through his college years at Cornell, and his acceptance into Juilliard—under the iron scowl of John Houseman—and his burgeoning friendship with Robin Williams.

He shares his love of sailing, flying, and equestrian sports and his general zest for life, but above all else, his love for his family shines through as he remembers the birth of his three children and the first time he met his future wife, Dana Morosini. Dana was a member of the Cabaret Corps of singers at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts while Reeve was appearing in a play called The Rover by Aphra Behn. He practically fell in love with her at first sight.

Although he was ranked as an "A" list film actor for many years, Reeve's stage career was far more impressive, having worked on and off Broadway with such names as Katherine Hepburn (A Matter of Gravity), Jeff Daniels (Fifth of July) and many others. His stage credits include Death Takes a Holiday, Richard III, Summer and Smoke, Love Letters, and dozens more. During his time at Juilliard, he worked in the Acting Company with Kevin Kline, David Ogden Stiers, Patti LuPone, and others.

Then came Superman as well as Somewhere in Time, Deathtrap, The Aviator, The Bostonians, Remains of the Day and other films of which Reeve speaks highly. On the other hand, he blames such flops as Street Smart, Superman III and IV, and Switching Channels for knocking him out of Hollywood's "A" list. In fact, his comment on Superman IV was simply, "The less said about Superman IV, the better." Although he takes partial blame for its failure.

All told, Still Me is a journey through the extreme highs and plummeting lows of a life that was fully lived by a man who many consider a hero to this day. I count myself among them. ( )
  pgiunta | May 2, 2017 |
A strong, powerful book full of insight, honesty, and true heroism. I picked it up on a whim at a flea market and saw how its previous owner found phrases to help him/her with personal struggles: while not obtrusive, there were 2 key places where some underlining took place. And that's what I love about this book: 2 people (at the very least) have found comfort and guidance from someone else's struggle.

I was impressed that Christopher Reeve starts with what everyone wants to know: what happened? How did you wind up there? How serious was the impact? What have you thought since? He describes the accident, including what he does not remember of it, and then goes back and forth in time from his life story to present day. His upbringing was full of sadness and some laughter, and then he got bitten by the acting bug. He describes his stage craft in great detail, including his time onstage with Katherine Hepburn (!) and also his pitfalls as he tried to cram everything into all-at-once.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who had a crush on Superman, or Somewhere in Time, and also for those dealing with themselves or a relative or friend with a debilitating injury. His sadness and pain after the accident are real and he is doubly honest with what he has to go through just to get up in the mornings. And he is trebly honest with how he has triumphed and used his clout to make the world a better place.

And I write this in the present tense. How sad that the world lost such a brave, heroic soul, and how lucky we were to have had him for the time that we did. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
4.5 stars

Being a huge Superman fan, of course I already knew who Christopher Reeve was. He soared into the sky in the original Superman and its sequels when I was born and growing up, but sadly I didn’t pay the man in the blue cape much attention until I became a superhero fan later in life. Even if I wasn’t a big fan of the movies or any of the stories back then, I was one of many who heard the tragic news of his riding accident. I remember my father, who always loved Superman, who always loved horses, discussing the tragedy with my mother. I remember her watching Christopher Reeve in ‘Somewhere in Time’ and remarking what a good movie it was.

Now as a fan of both the man and the legend, I was fascinated by this autobiography, which speaks in great detail of his accident, the tragedy of struggling with it, the medical procedures and all the horrors his body went through at first and would continue to struggle with for the duration. Only after he discussed the tragedy and the aftermath of that wake did he discuss, in detail, how he became established as an actor. The book initially begins with the accident, merging smoothly with reflections on relationships and commitment issues. Once the acting had taken off only is Dana then mentioned, and the relationship sounded from his words as romantic and powerful as it seemed portrayed to the media.

I knew he was an actor already, but I had no idea until this book how active and well accomplished he was with so much – horseback riding obviously, but other than that he always loved playing the piano player. It was a consideration for a lifelong career and he had been playing at concert level since childhood. He was also an enthusiastic sailor who spent weekends with his family, riding the heights of life on the water. He was a pilot as well, again an amazing feat. He also enjoyed playing a large variety of sports.

His enthusiasm for acting is obviously incredible. He speaks of his trials and triumphs, how he learned, his different methods of learning and how he learned through trial and error to try what worked and what not. Any fan of acting, whether you are a fan of him or not, would enjoy these segments of the book immensely. He chronicles his starting point especially and what roles and relationships meant to him. It was particularly interesting when he went back to acting later and discussed in detail directing a movie when he was paralyzed and all the difficulties encountered by it. Also his period of inactivity and frustration with acting when his career was on a bad streak. I do wish he would have mentioned much more about Superman than he did, but he discussed these movies less besides the audition and successes of the first one.

What makes this book work so wonderfully well is Reeve tells his story with utter honesty but not with expecting sympathy (which is impossible not to give). He tells his tales of acting and his enthusiasm with humility and for a love of the art and craft of doing it. He enthuses about all life has to offer and how blessed he’s been in so many sports, music, activities, and of course his family and children.

His writing tone is wonderfully complex but simple – it’s easy to read his emotions coming clear through the writing. Tragedy seeps through the pages easily, and, even though he is not a professional writer, the emotions come through. It does switch around a bit with life and where it’s at and how he came to be who he is, and he doesn’t speak in too much detail of his family life, but overall it is a detailed portrayal of his life and worthy to be called an autobiography.

The end of the book includes speeches he has delivered. The book ends on hope with the potentials of a cure or at least progress for him and for so many others. Throughout the writing of his book you see his struggle to come to terms with his new life and do the best he can with it. But while it is coping as well as it can be coping, the last paragraph especially haunts and I found it especially beautiful.

Christopher Reeve will always stand in my mind as Superman.

"I have to stop this cascade of memories, or at least take them out of their drawer only for a moment, have a brief look, and put them back. I know how to do it now: I have to take the key to acting and apply it to my life. There is no other way to survive except to be in the moment. Just as my accident and its aftermath caused me to redefine what a hero, I've had to take a hard look at what it means to live as fully as possible in the present. How do you survive int he moment when it's bleak and painful and the past seems so seductive?" ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Fascinating stuff on stem cell research. Thankfully very little about his Superman time. Definitely made it more interesting ( )
  lisathomson | Jan 11, 2013 |
We do not know how luck we are for breath and walk on our own. I appreciate what I have. And I feel for all the people who were touch for disability.
1 vote anacatarineacb | Jun 23, 2011 |
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The marvelous richness of human experience would lose everything of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse. -Helen Keller

For everyone whose life has been touched by disability
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A few months after the accident I had an idea for a short film about a quadriplegic who lives in a dream.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679452354, Hardcover)

Christopher Reeve has beaten the odds before. He scored his first role in a Euripides play at 15, costarred with Katharine Hepburn at 22, and was one of two advanced-program students accepted at Juilliard, to which 2,000 drama students annually apply. (The other advanced student became his best friend, Robin Williams.) Reeve rode a sailplane to 32,000 feet over Pikes Peak, fell 90 feet from a parasail harness into four feet of water and walked away. He survived emergency appendectomy, malaria in Kenya, and the disastrous film Changing Channels, with Burt Reynolds. He flew vintage airplanes upside down. On his first solo transatlantic flight, a radar controller informed him he was about to run out of gas 200 miles west of Iceland. The radar controller had misread his screen, and Reeve landed safely.

Then, in 1995, his horse balked at a 3-foot-3-inch racecourse fence, made an abrupt "dirty stop," Reeve's hands got tangled in the reins, he landed on his head and got a "hangman's injury"--a broken neck. Ace paramedics got oxygen to him 60 seconds before brain damage set in, and a helicopter named Pegasus lofted him to a hospital.

Reeve was already important. His interpretation of Superman was classic, and his starring role in The Bostonians launched the Merchant/Ivory school of filmmaking. But it was not until his paralysis that Reeve really got moving as a public figure of the first rank. As his memoir Still Me details, since the accident, Reeve has directed his first film, started the Christopher Reeve Foundation to fund spinal-cord-repair research, lobbied Congress, and crisscrossed the country on speaking engagements.

Says Reeve, "Lindbergh made it across the Atlantic [where he was feted by Reeve's grandma]; Houdini got out of those straitjackets; with enough money and grass-roots support, why shouldn't I be able to get out of this wheelchair?" Part Hollywood reminiscence, part scientific detective story, and part soapbox speech, Still Me explains the tantalizing but quite real possiblity that Reeve (and a quarter-million other paralyzed people, plus 49 million disabled Americans) may get back on their feet. Bobby Kennedy once tried to bolster Reeve's faith by saying, "Just fake it till you make it. The prayers will seem phony, but one day they'll become real." Christopher Reeve has more than a prayer, he has a program. He ain't fake, and he just might make it, leading a cast of millions. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:05 -0400)

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His whole life from the early days of his acting career, his accident and his battle to rebuild his life.

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