On William Shatner’s “Leonard” and Authorial vs. Readerly Perception

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Autobiographies are intensely biased, of course. And William Shatner is known to have quite the ego on him. But I had a strange experience reading this book: I felt as though I knew something about his relationship with Leonard Nimoy that Shatner himself had not understood. I don’t know if I’m right, but it seemed quite obvious.

As the book winds up and Shatner talks about his relationship with Nimoy in the last years of Nimoy’s life, Shatner expresses his regret that he and Nimoy had grown apart. He attributed it to Nimoy, and says he wishes he understood why Nimoy had placed such distance between them.

But to me it seems very clear. Shatner says that Nimoy decided to “major in family” in the last years of his life. Nimoy wanted to focus on his children and his wife, not on work.

But Shatner’s entire book is about a working friendship. He spends huge amounts of time listing the shows that he and Nimoy worked on, the movies and plays that they did, their forays into new areas of work. Shatner’s life is clearly about work, about his professional commitments. He chose to fulfill a professional committment rather than going to Nimoy’s funeral: that shows pretty clearly what was important in his life. One can easily imagine that most of what he talks about is work. It thus makes sense that, when one decides that they are going to set work aside and think about their family first, one does not want to spend that much time with the friend who won’t shut up about their job.

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Not only that, but one can imagine that Nimoy, forced to slow down due to illness, would have trouble listening to a friend go on and on about all the things he was doing, all the projects he was involved in.

It feels strange to draw these conclusions about real people, about a real relationship which this book gives only a tiny window into. And yet, I don’t think I’m wrong.

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