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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century Vol. 1 (a very brief review)

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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-10-11 12:21 PM
Original message
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century Vol. 1 (a very brief review)
Edited on Thu Feb-10-11 12:24 PM by salvorhardin
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948)
William H. Patterson Jr.
http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Heinlein-Dialogue-1907-194...

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this book. It really demythologizes the man. For instance, I always wondered why Heinlein never went into astronomy. Answer: Because he fouled up by getting married!

His only real ticket to becoming an astronomer was to get a Rhodes scholarship, but in the few weeks between graduating from the Naval Academy and starting duty on the USS Lexington, he married on a whim. Rhodes scholars were not allowed to be married at the time. Thus he had to withdraw himself from the first ever Rhodes scholarship being offered to a Naval Academy graduate. Oops! Makes me feel a lot better about some of the stupid mistakes I've made over the course of my life.

Incidentally, Wikipedia has it wrong. According to Patterson, Heinlein and Elinor Leah Curry married in Platte City (about 60 miles northwest of Kansas City) on June 21, 1929.

Perhaps the first sign of trouble was that Elinor slept with another man while she and Heinlein were on their honeymoon! Not surprisingly, the marriage did not last long. They were divorced on October 15, 1930. Elinor is the one who filed for divorce.

The writing is a bit dry, but I don't think that could be helped. There is a lot of detail, and copious endnotes, included in this first volume which covers Heinlein's life through WWII. If you're like me, and Heinlein was a huge influence on you, then you're going to find Patterson's Heinlein biography fascinating.

Warning about the Kindle edition: It doesn't include the large section of photographs that are in the print edition! I feel somewhat cheated by this, but I'll be damned if I'm going to give this publisher another $20. I'll ILL the book through my library. Otherwise, the Kindle edition is very well produced and all the features work as they should, including the endnotes.

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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-10-11 03:52 PM
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1. Why I will get real books every time.
Photographs either aren't going to be as viewable on a kindle, or as in this case, not there at all.
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-10-11 04:54 PM
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2. Photographs ARE viewable on a Kindle
In fact, photographs look pretty darn sweet on a Kindle. They look as if they're actual prints. Plus, since you can use the Kindle software and apps to read your books on almost any device you have, they need not be restricted to 600X800 gray scale. Not including the photos in this case was a stupid decision by the publisher.
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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-10-11 09:38 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Considering that the screen of a kindle is
noticeably smaller than a standard hardback book, there is bound to be a loss of some kind. There's always a compromise when the format is changed. I find that standard books that include photos, said photos are sufficiently down-sized in the paperback version as to make them sometimes not worth looking at.

I used to read old Life Magazines, much educational think I've ever done. Someone here recently pointed me to the website where all the old Life Magazines can be read. Great, except that a LOT of the photos in Life span both pages, so you get to look at such pictures half at a time. Not exactly like reading the original magazine.
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lazarus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-11 10:32 AM
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4. thanks, didn't realize this was coming out
RAH was a huge influence on my life, so this is one I'm definitely getting.
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-11 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. I'm certainly enjoying it
Edited on Fri Feb-11-11 02:25 PM by salvorhardin
I'm up to his marriage with Leslyn McDonald (his 2nd failed marriage). One of the things that I learned about Heinlein that I never suspected was how, umm, mystical he was. To put it bluntly, he was a major woo! Even did long time ESP experiments with his friends.

I can't wait for the second volume to come out!

Oh, it does look like Patterson gets some historical details wrong. See this blog post: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/patterson-heinlein-bio...

But when it comes to the details of Heinlein's life, Patterson is working from extensive interviews, public records and Heinlein's own papers (Heinlein was also something of a hoarder when it comes to paper it seems). So I think we're getting a pretty good picture of Heinlein's life. As Jo Walton notes in that blog post, this is something of an old-fashioned biography. However, I also think it's pretty easy to read between the lines to see what motivated Heinlein.
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lazarus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-11 03:47 PM
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6. I like old-fashioned biographies
in 2009, I read a biography of every US president, in order, up to Carter. (It's impossible to find a non-partisan biography on later presidents.) And I'm finishing up the Autobiography of Mark Twain. This is next on the list.
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Ozymanithrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-11 09:05 PM
Response to Original message
7. I will pick this up tomorrow...
Heinlein was one of my favorite writers from the time I read Citizen of the Galaxy in 1960, checked out from the Carnegie Library in Blackwell, Oklahoma.
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-11 12:25 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Heinlein is what got me hooked on science fiction
Edited on Mon Feb-14-11 12:27 AM by salvorhardin
Mrs. Polling, the town librarian, is who got me hooked on science fiction when she recommended _Have Spacesuit, Will Travel_ to me when I was in 4th grade.

The section on Heinlein's political career in California is eye-opening. Man, we forget just how huge socialism was in the U.S. back then. Upton Sinclair and Heinlein and EPIC. Utterly fascinating. Funny too how he was an ardent socialist even while hating communists, who he blamed for Sinclair's loss of the '34 California gubernatorial campaign and causing the Democratic Party to ultimately reject EPIC.
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