Just A Geek
O’Reilly Media, 2004
Once in a while a book will come along and just kicks your ass. This ass-kicking can wear many different guises, however it most often manifests itself as the book validates something you were thinking or feeling. For example I know several people who claim to have had a fundamental shift in their world-view as a result of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club but I believe what they went through was more of a revelation than a revolution. In this case Fight Club demonstrated there were other money-grubbing yuppies out there who toed that fine line between artistic self-loathing and emo therefore it was okay for these people to feel the way they had always been feeling. Nothing about their core character changed, the book just gave their feelings validation.
This is the experience I have had over the past several hours as I plowed through Wil Wheaton’s collection of autobiographical sketches Just A Geek. For those of you who do not know him, Wil Wheaton may be better known to you as TV’s Wesley Crusher or Gordie in Stand By Me (he was also in the MASSIVELY underrated Toy Soldiers), and while the True Hollywood Story of teenage Wil is not the subject of this book, I doubt Just A Geek would exist without those experiences. In Just A Geek Wheaton shares experiences from a few years of his life with the reader, years in which he struggles to (re)define and center himself and his life, although it is plain that during the events he relates, Wheaton was unaware of what was happening to him.
For me this book was compulsively readable, so much so that I finished the book in one sitting and it is almost 5AM as I write this review. I am not certain why I bought this book (it was crammed in an Amazon.com order with the uberdork edition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a few Shakespeare plays which I am re-reading) I have been aware of wilwheaton.net and wil wheaton dot net in exile for a couple of years now but, for whatever reason, I have never really been engaged by the site. I suspect this has more to do with what I was looking for than what Wil was offering, after all I knew he was an entertaining writer as I enjoyed his short-lived column in one of the Dungeons & Dragons magazines. I know it was not because I have some fannish obsession, either pro or con, with the character of Wesley Crusher. To be completely honest, despite my abiding love for most things Star Trek, I did not watch too much TNG when it first aired (particularly once they got Troi out of her space cheerleader outfits and Yar was no more.) I suppose it was reading Wheaton’s savagely funny commentary on several TNG episodes on TVSquad.com which convinced me to get his book and thus the revelation.
What did reading about the travails of TV’s Wesley Crusher reveal to me? Well, it is difficult to quantify (plus I am starting to get a headache) suffice to say Just A Geek served to validate how I have been feeling about my own life and, more specifically, where I am currently mired creatively. This book really spoke to me and I would encourage you all to read it as it has everything you need. A hero’s journey straight out of Campbell (Joe, not the soup you philstines), porn stars, Monty Python quotes, Trekkies, and roughly the same number of f-bombs I will use at work tomorrow. Enjoy!