Book Review: Falling Upwards

A quick look at the highlights of musician/author/actor Tim Dry’s career in show business suggests that a single autobiography probably couldn’t cover it all. Dry has been a fixture of music and film for the past several decades, forming the group Tik and Tok, and picking up a small role in Return of the Jedi. In recent years, he has made the shift to writing. He has an excellent short story out, is working on a series of novellas, and released an account of his experiences with the Star Wars fandom. Meanwhile, he’s still finding time for music and acting.

It’s a career and life that seems to be in a state of constant motion. It’s not surprising then that Falling Upwards, originally published in 2005, is a story that never really slows down. Dry is known for his work in the cult film Xtro, for his work with Tik and Tok, and for Return of the Jedi. All of those things make for interesting experiences. All of them are indeed in Falling Upwards. They’re good stories, but those are still only three things in what has apparently been a chaotic, endlessly entertaining life. The fact that Dry is seemingly game for just about anything served him well in the 70s and 80’s in particular. He was a fixture on a music scene that was constantly experimenting (for good or ill) with old ideas. Without bragging or making it seem as though he’s reaching to establish his role in that scene, Dry constructs an entire era of music and theater by relating his experiences in it. The story behind the formation of his dance/theater/burlesque troupe SHOCK is well worth reading. It is one more example of the creative drive that allowed Dry to have the sort of career he’s had.

The anecdotes from his work in music and film also reveal Dry’s talent for storytelling. Falling Upwards is a decently-sized autobiography, coming in at a little less than four hundred pages. Dry spends ample time on his youth, describing his fascination with The Beatles, and the influence that had on his interest in music. He writes about training to become a mime, which includes meeting a young Kate Bush. He takes us the experiences and encounters that shaped his early work, before he takes us into the work itself.

There is just enough detail in Dry’s accounts for the memories to take on their life. His talents as a writer allow us to see everything in Falling Upwards with just the right level of clarity. There are plenty of specifics and exchanges between Dry and the long cast of characters that have made up his life. It’s never boring or self-serving. Dry has his own version of that long-held notion that the English have a knack for deadpan humor. He very obviously delights in how absurd most things are. That amusement translates into his writing with the necessary, conversational flair. One of the best examples of this is in how he relates stories from his sexual past. You don’t have to imagine Dry’s actual speaking voice relating these anecdotes. The writing is such that you hear the kind of voice that would write something like Falling Upwards in the first place. It appears naturally in the words themselves. The humor is as accessible as everything else. Dry’s penchant for honesty, even when it doesn’t put him in the most favorable of lights, helps the book, too. It’s always nice to read an autobiography that doesn’t gloss over things. No one’s going to accuse him of doing that here.

Falling Upwards isn’t just engrossing and entertaining. It’s purposeful. The writing has a level of interest from the author that’s obvious. Dry is looking back on his life thus far for himself, as much as he’s doing it because he believes it’s an interesting story (and it is). Falling Upwards also succeeds at not dwelling on the past. This isn’t the bitter story of an equally bitter man who would give anything to stumble upon a time machine. Dry looks back on his life and career with good humor and quiet amazement that talent and a little good luck have conspired to carry him this far. He ends the book with an invitation for his life and career to continue challenging and surprising him. It’s hard to imagine he has been bored for any meaningful length of time. Falling Upwards concludes with the very positive idea that he’s still not bored. He wants us to feel the same way, to keep in mind that there’s just too much to do.