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True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My LifeTrue Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life by Kevin Sorbo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, confessions first. Confession One: I've always loved celebrity bios and autobios, especially the ones that are "I did this" more than the gossipy, feet of clay (themselves or others). I don't really want to know that Errol Flynn liked his women "young"--I'd far rather read Chuck Heston's journals (he always kept journals on the set, and they are chatty, about the craft, and not political). So, when this book came out, it went on my "read it some day" list.

Confession Two: I loved, loved, loved Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I loved it for what it was--beefcake and cheesecake in nearly perfect balance; totally unrealistic, but very athletic fight scenes; campy humor; memorable characters--who can resist Aphrodite windsurfing on her seashell, Autolycus, and the venal, but ultimately moral Salmoneus?; and all the other over-the- top, we-aren't-taking-ourselves-too seriously-and-neither-should-you, plots and contrivances. And, well, the infant WETA work was fun, too ("Eye of the Beholder" and all the episodes with Typhon the Giant laid the groundwork for the LotR SFX). Moreover, the series helped me through a really dark time. Physically, 1995-January 1997 were very tough, and the wonderful distractions of silly mythology wrapped up in beautiful packages (can you say Ares? I knew you could), was sometimes better medicine than the handfuls of pills I had to consume every day.

So, with that out of the way, let me explain what finally led me to read the book. Over the last few months, Sorbo has been in the news for a number of reasons. Some are connected to the book. Some are connected to politics and faith. Like many Minnesotans, he is a real mix of conservative, liberal, and Christian philosophies. The first and third have hit the news lately, with the most recent his speculation that he is being blacklisted in the industry because of his faith. So, finally, I felt I needed to read the book, because the person coming across in the press is a right-wing, whiny, has-been.

So I read. The book went amazingly fast (given how slowly I've been reading this summer). I started it one evening, and I finished it the next afternoon. It's the length books commonly were "in the old days." But some of the chapters are rather short, and there's a lot of white space.

It has a little of the "here's how I got to Hercules" that I expected. But the bulk of the book is about dealing with the aneurysm (discovered between seasons 3 and 4) that nearly cost him his arm (really), and the strokes that nearly cost him his life, and probably are responsible for where his career is today. There are some guest-authored chapters (notably Michael Hurst and Bruce Campbell), and they give an interesting added perspective.

What I like most about the book is his unflinching self-assessment (he was NOT a good patient), his willingness to give credit where credit is due (some of the medical personnel, some of the alternative therapy practitioners, but especially his fiance, now wife, Sam), and his acknowledgement that faith was an important part of his own healing process, without getting up on a pulpit claiming "and it should be for you." Some of the book really isn't very flattering, but ultimately, I'm glad I read it. I think it does do what it sets out to do--give people suffering from an illness encouragement and an example of how it can go, and a small measure of "you aren't alone," even though, ultimately, you're the one who has to deal with it.

It made me melancholy, though. You see, he was one of those smart jocks, with little patience for people who are sick, full of drive and arrogance, and a certain "center of the universe" mentality. I know a fairly high number of those types, most of them male, but not all. Always have. I have a weakness for them. And the whiny, angry man sitting on the couch, making everyone around him miserable because he can't do the things he wants to, that he used to be able to (work out, play golf, drive, work a 12 hour day, walk across a room), is familiar. And Sorbo's most devastating injury was to his brain. I remember standing in the yard, looking at my beloved, and wondering "If he survives, will he still be him?"

I'm happy for Sam Jensen Sorbo that it looks like she got back not just the man she loved, but a better version than he was before.

But, I wish he'd shut the hell up in interviews about politics and being blacklisted. Makes him come across more like the whiny guy on the couch than the one who ultimately seemed to develop a good sense of priorities. Even if he's right about all of it, really, Sorbs--just shut up about those.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
Personally, if Kevin Sorbo is wondering why he might be blacklisted, I have two words...."Soul Surfer"

Even Hercules couldn't save the nubile Christian home-schooled surf-chick from becoming shark-chow.

I mean, really, God had a great white snack on your arm in Hawaii because you skipped church on the beach for some tasty waves? Really?
Aug. 27th, 2013 12:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah--a too familiar headline: "Desperate Career Move Bites Actor in Ass." I managed to miss that one (for which I am eternally grateful). He's done a couple that I really enjoyed: Something Beneath (SyFy), and Avenging Angel (Hallmark). And Meet the Spartans, though the humor was a bit too coarse for me at times, was mostly fun. The last few clearly have a very Christian edge, and some of the scripts are...awful. Though, I have to say the one where he played Cain (yes, that Cain, the original), was better than most of that ilk.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )