Dancing Barefoot, by Wil Wheaton
Like many people, I became familiar with the author first through his rather punchable character Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a child star, for that role as well as others (including a breakout role in the film Stand By Me), the author does not serve as a cautionary tale of the horrors of Hollywood life for has-beens, but rather comes off as a geeky and generally amusing adult who is somewhat normal, at least as far as geeky and nerdy people like me are concerned. In reading this collection of stories that were not included in the author’s memoir Just A Geek (review forthcoming), the author shows a variety of different tones and comes off as as rather appealing sort of person. Thankfully, as a result of his more recent work including a vlog series that shows him as a competent tabletop role playing gamer, I know him now for something other than his role on TNG, which is definitely for the better as far as I am concerned, as this book reveals that all too many people still judge him for that role, and not entirely justly given the fact that he did not write the lines he had to say. He’s writing now, though, as if to make up for lost time.
This particular book contains five true stories that end up being just above 100 pages, but they vary widely in length. The first story is a sentimental tearjerker about the death of the author’s aunt Val, to whom this volume is dedicated. The second story is a sentimental one about the fun the author has playing with his stepsons and enjoying being a cool stepdad while enjoying hide and seek and backyard baseball. The third story manages to combine a discussion about an acting audition in the midst of a wildfire with memories of the author being an awkward teen. The fourth story is a romantic one about the author enjoying time with his wife while walking in the rain. It is the fifth and final story that is the real core of the book, taking up well more than half of the space in the book and also looking at the ways in which the author has come to terms with his life as a veteran of Star Wars, including his skits and talks, his relationship with other actors from the series, and the way that people still confuse the author as a man for his role.
Who would appreciate a book like this one? The odds are good that a great many of the readers of this book will likely be familiar with the author from his role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and will enjoy the way he dishes about the way that Gene Roddenberry and others helped to mentor and encourage him during his youth. But the stories indicate that there is a lot more going on in the author’s life than acting, including stepparenting, dealing with the loss of relatives, and also handling fame and the expectations that people have of him. There is a lot to enjoy in this collection of true stories, and they reveal a side of the author that is warm and friendly. All things considered, it appears as if Wil Wheaton has been able to develop his writing and live a decent life while also keeping one foot in the door when it comes to acting and comedy. All of that makes this a book that shows the reader who he is, and certainly serves as a supplement to his memoir and other writing that is worth checking out.