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Reviews of Patterson Heinlein Vol. 2
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Author:  rgorsch [ Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Reviews of Patterson Heinlein Vol. 2

Here is a list of reviews of Vol. 2 as of today, August 6. This may not be complete: I used the resources of my college library to cobble together this list. Most of these reviews can be accessed using Google, some not.

Publisher's Weekly, April 7, 2014
Library Journal, May 1, 2014
Kirkus Reviews, May 7, 2014
Booklist, May 15, 2014
New York Review of Science Fiction (nyrsf.com), June, 2014
Locus, June, 2014 (by Gary K. Wolfe)
The New Republic, June 8, 2014
Amazing Stories, June 13, 2014.
The Washington Post, June 26, 2014
The Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2014

I am interested in what other people think about this record of reviews. The first four of these are simply automatic reviews generated from within the publishing industry. Of the rest, three are major reviews from within the science fiction world and three are major reviews from the mainstream press (The New Republic, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal). I find myself rather disappointed in the lack of attention to this book in the mainstream media since Bill Patterson's whole project, and in this I completely agree with him, was to portray Heinlein as an important AMERICAN writer. Was it because Heinlein just doesn't seem interesting in this day and age as a topic? Was it because the biography just didn't seem good enough?

Author:  RLetson [ Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Reviews of Patterson Heinlein Vol. 2

Not to be contentious, but in any non-SF-centric conversation or on-line discussion about books and writers, drop in Heinlein's name and note the response. I predict that the farther the participants' interests are from popular or genre fiction, the less likely it is that there will be more than a dim recognition of the name, and that the likeliest connection will be with Stranger, and that a significant part of those responders will connect to him to Manson. Like it or not, the majority of Heinlein's readership is the SF readership, and even there the demographic skews middle-aged and older.

It's not just Heinlein who is less than a household name in the book world--you can try the same experiment with, say, Reginald Hill or even Patrick O'Brian, both of whom are seen by a large part of the reading public as genre writers.* (And O'Brian even made bestseller lists and had a reasonably recent movie made from a couple of his books.)

And the book-review world is sadly shrunk--beyond the national dailies and the New Yorker/Atlantic/Harpers magazine world there is very little attention paid to anything that doesn't have a local/regional or celebrity hook. I suspect that whatever interest there might have been in RAH ("Oh, that guy who wrote the hippie-sci-fi book") was satisfied by Vol. 1.

* Or Dick Francis or Robert B. Parker or C. S. Forester, for that matter. Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Author:  rgorsch [ Sun Aug 10, 2014 10:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Reviews of Patterson Heinlein Vol. 2

Hi RL:

I actually think your analysis makes a lot of sense, so I don't feel much of a sense of contention.

Here's where I might differ a little: I teach at a liberal arts college in California and in my experience a surprisingly high number of fellow faculty members are quite familiar with Heinlein's name and even with his work. These include faculty from all disciplines and all generations. Faculty range in age from their 20s to their 80s, so I am not talking about just a late- middle-aged crowd. If I mention Heinlein to colleagues in the context of explaining what I am interested in I encounter a lot of sense of recognition and familiarity, if not down right comradeship. I think, too, that military veterans as a group may exhibit a surprising familiarity with Heinlein because Starship Troopers is actually included on supplementary reading lists for some or all of the services. Again I have encountered this in students who were military veterans. When I attended the Heinlein Centennial, I was rather surprised that so many of the people I met were not just straight sf fans, sf writers, and sf scholars. For example, I made the acquaintance of rocket scientists of various sorts. Finally, in the world of libertarians, of which I am one, Heinlein is legendary. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and its slogan TANSTAAFL are definitive. Everyone knows what this is about and many were converted to libertarianism originally because of this one book.

So, sure, if you move out to the mainstream audience that reads its reviews in The New Yorker and the The New York Times, if they read book reviews at all, Heinlein becomes a pretty hazy name and notion.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New Republic did actually review this book.

RG

Author:  RobertPearson [ Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Reviews of Patterson Heinlein Vol. 2

A wonderful "review/essay" at Amazon by Forrest Carr(click to read the whole thing):

(This is a personal essay but it also serves as an introduction to Robert Heinlein from a long-time fan and as a mini-review of “Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century” by William H. Patterson, Jr. Volume Two of which was just recently published.)

I want to tell you about something that won’t mean much to you or anyone else, but it knocked me off my feet. So I’m sharing it here in the belief that if it’s so important to me, then maybe my friends, blog readers and radio listeners might also find it interesting.

As all of my close friends know, throughout my life I have only had a few idols. The biggest one is Robert A. Heinlein. Many consider him to be the most important American science fiction author of all time. I also like the other two of the “Big Three”—Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke—and have been reading them since I was a boy. But for me Heinlein is the undisputed master. He’s more than just a writer. His book Space Cadet was the first novel I ever read. It fired up my young imagination in a major way, and put me on the path for a lifelong love of sci-fi, space exploration, and scientific progress.

I was sort of a wimpy, non-athletic kid, so while my friends were out playing softball or whatnot, I tended to be reading. Eventually my literary world expanded to take in authors of all kinds, but Heinlein remained my favorite. I loved his “voice,” which always radiated core values of love, patriotism, and personal responsibility, while spinning a good yarn. He’s best known for Stranger in a Strange Land, which wound up being a cornerstone of the Free Love movement back in the 60’s—to Heinlein’s immense surprise (he was not of that generation and had no intention of being anyone’s “guru”). But Heinlein is more enjoyable, and understandable, if you don’t start with that book. I was fortunate to be able to read Heinlein’s works more or less “in order,” from his early juveniles (which hold up as adult novels) forward to his more experimental adult work. So I was able to watch his philosophy and world view evolve in real time, in parallel with my own. I have a copy of absolutely every book and compilation he published, and each volume is well worn. The man probably had more influence on me than any other human being aside from my parents.

I never had a chance to meet Heinlein, but in 1982, when I was 25 years old and just starting out as a television news producer, I wrote him a letter—the one and only true fan letter I’ve ever written to anyone. I poured out my heart to him, letting him know how important his works had been to me. I did not expect a reply, and didn’t include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. But I got a reply anyway. His wife Virginia composed it, but Heinlein signed it. The letter stated that while Virginia composed all of his correspondence so as to allow him time to write, he did read every letter. The two of them said that I was receiving a reply precisely because I had asked for nothing. With so many people in his life demanding slices of his time (which, I would later learn, was a sore subject for him) the fact that I had asked for nothing apparently impressed him and Virginia. They said they appreciated my comments and were touched by them.

In 2010 William H. Patterson, Jr. published the first of a two-volume authorized biography of Heinlein. I snapped it up and read it with great interest. Afterwards, I sent the author a quick email containing two or three lines letting him know how much I had enjoyed learning more about my idol. I must have given a quick summary of who I was—I was news director at KGUN-TV in Tucson at the time. Patterson wrote back thanking me for my comments and asking me whether I would do him a favor. It seems Heinlein had given an interview to KGUN9 in the late 70’s, during a sci-fi convention. He asked me to see whether that interview still existed.

I agreed to check. This required a quick trip to the Arizona Historical Society, which maintains the old KGUN archives. Alas, nothing was there. I wrote him back with the news. Patterson asked me to write up a quick article for his journal, which I did. Afterwards, we maintained a correspondence. I was eagerly looking forward to the second volume of the biography, and by the end of 2013 Patterson told me he was scrambling to meet his deadlines with the publisher for a book due out that summer. He completed the work, but alas, he died just before the book came out. I was very sad to hear that.

I bought the book, of course. It’s taken me longer this time to get through it, because I have a lot of things going on in my life (starting a new blog and radio show while also trying my hand at writing sci-fi, something I’ve always wanted to do). When I got to the passage where Patterson mentions Heinlein’s trip to Tucson, I saw that he had referenced a footnote. So, out of curiosity, I looked it up.

And there was my name. Patterson had credited me for the tiny bit of regrettably unsuccessful research I’d done trying to track down the Heinlein interview.

Yes, it is a tiny, tiny, tiny thing. But words really fail to express its effect on me. There will be only one authorized biography of Robert Heinlein. This one is it. And my name is in it. Yes, yes, it’s only in a footnote that absolutely no one but the most rigorous scholar or researcher will ever see. But it’s there, just the same. My name. In Heinlein’s official biography.

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