Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pseudo-Review of Grumbles from the Grave by Robert A. Heinlein

Since I'm trying to post at least once a day, and I've missed one day this weekend already, I'm reaching into the vaults to pull out this, which was originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written 11/18/04. I have spruced it up just a bit, with real italics and suchlike, for your reading enjoyment:

I just finished reading Grumbles from the Grave today. I may have to revise my opinions of Heinlein -- I now half-believe that he actually got less grumpy as he grew older. (Which appalls me, since I hope to grow and increase in grumpiness myself. If even Heinlein -- one of my models of obstinate grumpitude -- mellowed, then there may be no hope for me.) I was also deeply annoyed at all of the dashes where proper names should be; when I want that, I'll read a 19th century novel (though I certainly can't fault Heinlein there; I detected the heavy paw of nervous Del Rey lawyers making things all nicey-nice).

On a slightly less tongue-in-cheek matter, I was surprised at how little the book has to do with the SF field (aside from RAH's opinion of his own place in it, and that's mostly from the Astounding days, when Campbell was regularly annoying him). I noticed Blish's name mentioned once, and a couple of other people who either visited or were visited by the Heinleins, but there's essentially nothing of the SF world -- no visits to conventions, letters to other writers, or even talk of reading other SF books.

There was a reference, which I found quite sad, near the end of the book: Heinlein wrote that he "necessarily lives among people who do not read science fiction." I wonder at that "necessarily." I suppose it had to do with his preference for living away from large concentrations of people, but, still, I can't quite tell if he'd organized his life so that he had no potentially critical readers around him, or if he was unhappy that things had turned out that way.

I hope that, someday, there will be another volume of his letters. Lurton Blassingame, I'm sure, was a wonderful man, but I'd much rather have more of Heinlein interacting with his peers. And I'd love to read his opinions of other books and trends in the field -- Heinlein was never shy, so I have to believe letters on those subjects exist somewhere.

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