With high humor, though fighting waves of depression, Douglas tells of his recovery from a stroke.
This is Douglas’s eighth book, the best being his autobiography, The Ragman’s Son (1988), and his first novel, Dance with the Devil (1990). Here, he begins with the soft knifelike pain down the side of his head and cheek, then his sudden loss of speech. Soon he is undergoing months of therapy with no seeming gain: “ ‘A sick sparrow sang six sad spring songs sitting sighing under a simmering sun.’ I don’t know if I could have handled that before my stroke!” Then he must resist well-meaning people who encourage him to become an invalid. “They are enablers. Next thing you know, they’ll be feeding you and treating you like a simpering idiot. You can’t let them.” Douglas opted instead to work toward becoming a real-life Spartacus, leading other stroke victims out of bondage to despair. In the case of pal Burt Lancaster, languishing speechless for four years after a stroke, he didn’t get the chance. They’d drawn pistols together at the O.K. Corral, but “his wife would not permit me to see him, fearing it would depress him.” At times, this is nearly a roll call of dead acting friends; we seem to be watching as faces of unforgettable intensity turn secret and dark. But Douglas provides a gutsy conclusion when he finds he must make his first public appearance, slurred speech and all, to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. Waiting backstage, he hears himself speaking clearly in a scene from Spartacus. He enters to a standing ovation. “I paused, took a deep breath and swallowed. ‘Thank you for 50 wonderful years in the wonderful world of moviemaking.’ ”
Inspirational and immensely charming.