Still Me: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780001055384

Still Me: A Life

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9780001055384: Still Me: A Life

Through his leading role in the three Superman films, Christopher Reeve became so closely identified with the superhero that he wasn't just seen as the actor who played Superman, he was Superman. Which is why the tragic riding accident which left him paralysed from the neck down shocked the world. Superman was not superhuman. It is also why he is now the world's most recognisable person in a wheelchair. In true superhero style, Christopher Reeve refuses to resign himself to the life of a quadriplegic, and is actively campaigning to raise the profile of spinal-cord injury victims and research. Although he was initially told that he would only ever be able to move his head, he can now shrug his shoulders and breathe alone for increasing periods of time, and is determined that he will walk again. It is this extraordinary courage and determination that has made Christopher Reeve the internationally admired figure that he is, and it is this bravery which makes this autobiography about his paralysis and his journey to recovery such a powerful and moving story.

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Review:

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

From the Publisher:

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Review by Frank Johnson, Audio Diversions

Four years, almost to the month, after Christopher Reeve brought unwanted world-wide attention to himself and to the tiny, little known, town of Culpepper, Virginia, by falling from his horse in a jumping competition, a Random House Audio production team sat with him at his house as he read his new book Still Me for all to hear.

Anyone who witnessed Reeve's first public appearances after the accident will recall the tremendous effort it took for him to speak, even a few words, as the respirator pumped air in and out of his lungs. They will find it hard to believe that he could present a warm and compelling and beautifully modulated reading and sustain it for three hours of finished product. His is an extraordinary story of personal courage, determination and passion, told with charm and humor and hope.

Despite the fact that he crushed two vertebrae high on his spinal column and is paralyzed from the neck down, Reeve determined that, one day, he would walk again. Listening to this heartwarming story of his childhood, his education, including a stint studying under the famed John Houseman at Julliard, his friendship with Robin Williams, Katherine Hepburn and others and his marriage to the remarkable Dana, Reeve leaves little doubt that he will succeed. This is a good book under most any definition. You
won't want to miss it. [Sorry, it is abridged only].

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