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Leonard Nimoy writes words of love especially for you

January 19, 2010

WILL I THINK OF YOU?

by Leonard Nimoy

Dell, 1974

Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a Trekkie.  This is indicated by the fact that out of all the Star Trek movies, I enjoyed last summer’s reboot the most, even though according to most self-proclaimed “real,” hardcore Trekkies, it went against canon of the original core story and was made mostly to draw in a younger, hipper, predominantly female audience who only cares about the eye candy instead of the science, or some bullshit like that.

Trekkies are sort of like furries for me, a subculture that is utterly foreign and baffling, perhaps even a little creepy at times. It started as a cult formed around a TV series that was only on for barely three seasons, and a not terribly successful three seasons at that, then grew into its own enormous pop culture entity, branching off into separate groups who think that the original is best, those who think Picard is the superior captain, and those who think Wil Wheaton is still the Devil incarnate.  It’s similar to the rabid fandom that developed around Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a TV series that lasted an unimpressive fourteen episodes before eventually being made into an equally unsuccessful film, yet its fans dress up as and speak in the slang of the characters, working under the belief that it lasted for ten glorious years.

That being said, somehow, without benefit of having watched a single second of Firefly, I know what a “browncoat” is, just as, as annoying as it is when people use it while trying to boost their nerd cred, I know what “gorramit” means.  At the same time, I know what Tribbles are and who Amanda Grayson is.  I even know that Star Trek is generally credited with creating the trope that states that if a male character in a TV show has an evil twin, that twin will always have a mustache.  Even without my valuable input, Star Trek has become an indelible part of Americana, and everybody associated with it has retained some level of legendary status, even if their post-Trek careers have consisted mostly of being former cast members of Star Trek.

Oh, they tried, God love them, they tried, to separate themselves from it for a little while. While their co-stars accepted their permanent science fiction convention/strip mall opening fates, leading men William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy made valiant attempts to break away from the Final Frontier. Shatner starred as a cop in T.J. Hooker and a nutty lawyer in Boston Legal, but his overly mannered, famously stilted way of speaking just takes you right back to the Captain’s Log, every time. Other than a memorable role as one of the villains in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, not to mention as host of TV’s In Search Of…, one of the all-time greatest documentary programs about fake shit like Bigfoot and crop circles, Nimoy’s post-Spock acting stints have mostly consisted of either Spock-like characters or Spock himself, most recently in the 2009 reboot.

Both actors also attempted careers in music. By now you’ve undoubtedly heard William Shatner’s delightfully loony take on ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,’ but have you heard this?

It’s not often that you see a piece of film where it appears that everyone involved in it, from the performers down to the gaffers and the best boy, were fried out of their minds on LSD, but here you go.  It’s sort of mesmerizing and deeply upsetting at the same time.  Naturally, both Shatner and Nimoy later claimed that their attempts at some kind of weird psychedelic/insane asylum day room folk-pop were meant to be humorous, but in truth it was not at all unusual in the 60s, or in the 70s and 80s for that matter, for seemingly square celebrities to try to gain some hip credibility through music that the “kids” liked at the time. Ethel Merman eventually left them both in the dust with The Ethel Merman Disco Album, but when it came to instilling pure “where the fuck was he going with this?” bafflement in his listeners, Shatner probably wins by a hair. A slim, gossamer hair.  You’re expecting me to make a joke about Shatner’s hairpiece, and I just refuse to go there.

Both of them eventually added “author” to their list of talents as well.  Shatner wrote a number of memoirs, as well as the Tek War series of sci-fi novels, though “writing” may be a bit generous–“attached his name to someone else’s manuscripts” is probably a more accurate description.  Nimoy also wrote two sets of memoirs, as well as numerous poetry chapbooks, one of which, 1974’s Will I Think of You?, I found for $1 at a charity book sale.

Before I go on, it’s only fair that I should mention that I’m not a big fan of poetry.  It took me a long time to come to that conclusion.  Like most people who like to believe that they’re creative and artistic, I used to read a lot of poetry, not so much because I wanted to but because I felt like I should.  I even tried writing some myself, all of it atrocious.  Though I felt like a bit of a prole at the realization, most poetry left and continues to leave me cold.  I’ve probably read hundreds of poems in my life, and maybe ten percent of them I found enjoyable.  Not surprisingly, most of that ten percent was written by the same four or five people (though not all of them famous, interestingly enough). It seems as though the default setting of most poetry is “mawkish,” and I try to avoid mawkishness if at all possible. That setting is ratcheted up a few notches further when it’s love poetry.

Will I Think of You? is an entire book of love poetry, dedicated “to Sandi.” Luckily, according to Wikipedia at least, at the time of its publication Nimoy was married to a woman named Sandra, otherwise he would have had some ‘splainin to do. Though they divorced several years later, it was clear at the time he wrote the poems in Will I Think of You? that he loved his wife a whole lot, and that’s nice, but while reading them you can’t help thinking he could have expressed that love in a fashion more befitting that of a millionaire TV star, such as buying her a diamond tennis bracelet or hiring a skywriting plane to do it for him.

“This is the voice of a man speaking to his beloved, hoping that somehow she will hear,” the copy on the back cover reads. “These are the eyes of a man seeking his beloved in every place where life and beauty dwell. This is the magic of love itself, transforming our world into a place of miracles.” And this is the slight but nagging nausea of the reader, struggling through page after page of hippie sensitive male fluff. Nimoy compares his wife to the “virgin whiteness” of snow and describes the rain as “God’s tears.” His love is a “small warming flame” and says that before he met his wife “I felt I was outside looking in.” No one but her understands “the emptiness of my soul.” Then there’s this doozy:

Only

When I die

And realize

That I am born again

For dying is

A beginning

And I

have died

thousands of times

Sometimes

Several times a day

It continues in the same vein for the entire book, to the point where it’s impossible to tell when one poem ends and the next one begins. It was all very well-meaning, no doubt, but it reads like something a fifteen year-old Marilyn Manson fan with his first serious crush would scribble in a notebook. That kind of scribbling usually isn’t meant for other human eyes to look upon, but here it is collected for publication, presumably meant to be read to your lover in front of a crackling fire, surrounded by luxurious shag carpeting, perhaps after a few glasses of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

With the artsy photographs (also by Nimoy) of seagulls in the sky and silhouettes of women running across a beach, this was intended to be a classy bit of reading, very much of the time, that time being the early 1970s. It’s all pretty groovy, and considering Nimoy continued to put out poetry collections as recently as 2002, clearly he thinks he’s good at it. Nevertheless, where it should be poignant and bittersweet to realize that the relationship he waxes sentimental over, through which he shares “heartwarmth and bodywarmth,” eventually ended, you mostly just wonder whether Sandi just couldn’t take one more damn poem.

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