It's Only Temporary
Argo-Navis, 2012 (2012)
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
hen he was in his twenties, Evan Handler was diagnosed with a particularly deadly form of cancer. He was treated aggressively and survived what was called by his doctors an
, and he later wrote a book and produced a Broadway play based on his experiences. Having triumphed for more than twenty years since then, he has now written a second book,
It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive
, documenting his life since he got well. He has become a well-known actor who became famous enough to be recognized everywhere he went after playing a part in the television show
Sex and the City
andler's memoir is written with intelligence and humor. He manages to laugh at himself, even while telling us about the most serious of subjects, such as re-entering the tough job market of acting, finding and losing girlfriends, or dealing with fame, while feeling, at least initially, that he's been robbed of some of the best years of his life by his illness.
e starts this book by giving some background about his illness, always a good idea when writing for a wide audience that might include people who had never heard of him. Like me. Probably I'm one of a small minority of Americans who don't recognize him, but I'm old enough to be his mother, and we aren't always up-to-date on recent television shows.
is chapters read like short stories, each one telling about a specific event, and he managed to keep me guessing most of the time as to how that event would turn out. You get the feeling that different chapters were written at different points in time and for the most part they don't progress in a chronological order, which he explained in a preface as being the way friends get acquainted, telling you about themselves bit by bit. He adds that '
this is a book about perspective, and how it can change. It's a book about how one man finally learned to live well in the world, in spite of possessing the knowledge that his life - like everyone's - will be of limited duration.
ome of the funniest parts of the book have to do with his job experiences. His cancer treatment left him completely bald, but he felt that he should wear a wig when auditioning for parts. The wig was difficult to attach to his head, and he looked so different when he wore it that people wouldn't recognize him if they usually saw him bald. This led to a funny situation with his first big break where he wanted to practice his role without the wig, having gotten the part while he was wearing it, and then had to explain his lack of hair to the director.
andler tells us, '
the director's face registered no ability to comprehend what he was being told. Either that, or he was trying so hard not to let his eyes wander up to my hairline he looked as if he couldn't comprehend. The role I was playing was that of a healthy, mainstream college student. I asked him if it would be all right if I left the hair at home for the next few weeks, until we got into dress rehearsals and costumes.
' The director stammered an agreement.
here were also unfortunate happenings, as is true in most people's job history, but he usually can bring enough self-deprecating humor into play for a few chuckles there too. He had problems that he wasn't expecting with an old friend, whose personality changed so much that they could no longer get along well enough to work together. His saddest chapters revolve around his romantic aspirations, although sometimes meeting the right person to love can take a long time for anyone, whether or not you have survived a serious illness. I was glad that he didn't follow the frequent marriage/divorce routine that many popular actors seem to find themselves caught up in.
van seems like a nice young man in his account of himself, searching for a life where he can feel fulfilled by his work and find love as well. I'm happy to have had this chance to get acquainted with him in this enjoyable and well-written memoir.
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