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When It Comes to Living With Uncertainty, Michael J. Fox Is a Pro

The book also explores Fox’s separate but equal relationships with his four adult children (he said they were on high alert for evidence of favoritism); his decision to stop acting (“not being able to speak reliably is a game-breaker for an actor”); why he recently got a turtle tattooed on the inside of his right forearm (“a visual record of the power of resiliency”); and perhaps most movingly, the gradual progression of his disease.

He writes, “Absent a chemical intervention, Parkinson’s will render me frozen, immobile, stone-faced, and mute — entirely of the mercy of my environment. For someone for whom motion equals emotion, vibrance and relevance, it’s a lesson in humility.”

For a certain consumer of Generation X pop culture, Michael J. Fox calls to mind “Family Ties” in prime time, “Back to the Future” in movie theaters, interviews in Tiger Beat. The energy that made him such a riveting presence onscreen comes through in his book. It even comes through in the time he is on my screen — where I’ve watched different incarnations of him all my life, only this time he’s talking just to me — to the point I’m worried about getting in trouble with his mama-bear publicist if I take up more than the agreed-upon amount of time.

The only pause in momentum comes when he talks about Pollan. “The book is a love letter to Tracy. She really got me through” — he swallows, shakes his head, holds up a hand — “everything.”

The guiding principle for “No Time Like the Future” was inspired by Fox’s brother-in-law, Michael Pollan, a fellow writer known for his books “The Botany of Desire” and “How to Change Your Mind.” “He always says to me, ‘Velocity and truth. Velocity and truth. Keep it honest and keep it fast,’” Fox said. “I don’t want to be the guy who’s sitting on the pillow telling people, ‘Be the ball.’ I’m not going to tell anyone about anything other than my experience. I’m 59 years old, and I got no time for small talk.”

A draft of the book was underway when Fox and his family relocated to their house in Quogue, N.Y., to ride out the early months of the pandemic. From there, he continued to work six days a week via FaceTime with his longtime producing partner, Nelle Fortenberry, who was in Sag Harbor. Eventually the team rented an office, where their process was the same as it had been for previous books: Fortenberry plastered a wall with index cards listing themes Fox wanted to cover. Under each one was another row of color-coded cards containing stories pertaining to each subject.

“The way I work is, I write notes no one can read and then I dictate them to Nelle,” Fox said.

Fortenberry elaborated in a phone interview: “Michael’s handwriting has never been good,” she said. “So he talks and I type. I am not his ghostwriter or a co-writer. He is the writer of this book.”

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