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Adam Nimoy is un-Spocked

Adam Nimoy, son of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, reflects on his life and failings in an "anti-memoir"

Image Credit:Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post
Adam Nimoy writes about life with his children, daughter Maddy and musician son Jonah
Weekend Review

"I'm going to write about the dark times,'' Adam Nimoy explained to his mother when he began working on My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life, which he calls “an anti-memoir''.

“Like when you and Dad were out of town on some Star Trek press junket and I was strung out on the floor of that men's room downtown ... ''

“That ... that ... that never happened to you!'' Adam's mother protested.

“No, Ma, I know. But that's what people want to hear.''
From his first meeting with a prospective agent, Adam had to hold on tight to the book he wanted to write.

Agents wanted the dirt on growing up with Star Trek television actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock.

Adam wanted to write about his recovery from 30 years of addiction to marijuana and alcohol, about the crash and burn of his 18-year marriage, about raising two teenage children and about finding someone to love.

Writing the book was a way to pull himself out of the depressing hole his life had become.

In 1975, Adam's father, Leonard, then 44, published his own book about the fight for identity I Am Not Spock. Adam, 51, is surprised to discover the parallel between the two books.

“For me,'' he says, “the generational story is very important. My father was the son of Russian immigrants.

They arrived in Boston with nothing. As a boy, my father sold newspapers in the winter. When he came to Hollywood in 1950, he did all kinds of jobs to support his acting career.

There is nothing grandiose about my grandparents or my dad's desperation to survive and succeed or even his passion for his art.

It was all about humility and fragility and the value of hard work.''

Work-obsessed dad

In My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life, Adam writes about the consuming nature of his father's work, the long hours and the fans.

“Since the beginning, people have been coming up to Dad from every direction wanting something ... Naturally, Dad had to be very guarded when dealing with these types of situations and often times he forgot to let his guard down when relating to me.''

It has taken decades, Adam writes, to stop blaming and resenting his father, mostly working on his own.

“I've never had much luck arguing with him.

Have you ever argued with a Pop Culture Icon?

Have you ever argued with a guy who can cause a frenzy among thousands at a convention hall simply by performing a Vulcan hand salute?''

Ironically, I Am Not Spock reveals Leonard Nimoy's consuming nature, the extent to which the studio became home and family. While shooting Star Trek, he worked 12 hours a day, five days a week.

“My fellow artistes,'' Leonard Nimoy writes, “were all my brothers and sisters and I had many parent figures: directors, producers and studio heads .... When the Spock character became successful, I felt I was a son who was doing his share to carry the family load.''

Thirty-three years later, his own son has had several careers: lawyer, television director, teacher and author. Writing gives him a huge sense of accomplishment — “A book is totally yours.''

My Miserable Life documents the individual therapy, the couples' therapy, the AA and Marijuana Anonymous meetings, his time in a writing group. All of it is what Adam refers to as “process''.

Much of this work has been in the name of learning to be a good father, trying, as Adam says, to model appropriate behaviour — patience, tolerance.

This hasn't been easy. During his separation and divorce, Adam's children begged him to come home.

He writes about it and these passages are among the most painful in the memoir.

“How's it going to feel?'' his daughter Maddy yells at him one night. “How's it going to feel, to be living the rest of your life alone in that apartment?''

He describes how much he misses living with his children, being able to watch them sleep and sit with them while they do their homework.

Father and son, in their writing, have similar timing; a light, comedic touch, particularly in moments of pain and fear.

Both use imagined dialogue in certain passages: the elder Nimoy with Spock and the younger with his dad.

In I Am Not Spock, one of these passages reads like this:
Adam: Spock, What is life?

Spock: A state of being.

Adam: Let me put the question another way: Why is there life?

Spock: Yours or mine?

Adam: Anyone's.

Spock: You've missed my point ...

Adam: Which?

Spock: “Yours or mine'' ... I was trying to suggest something.

Adam: You've lost me.

“My father's point in that book,'' Adam explains, “was that he was in process constantly. I admire the process.

Unfortunately, he was all about the process. He was not that good at balancing. As a child of the Depression, he had this drive to survive.''

Even as communicative as he tries to be with his son, Adam suspects that Jonah complains about his father in therapy.
“What's up with that?'' he asks.