The Amazing Asimov Tackles His Most Fascinating Subject—Himself!
Isaac Asimov, says The New York Times, “has probably done more than anyone else to give scientifically illiterate readers a feeling for the excitement and accomplishment of modern science.” Now, picking up where his 200th book, IN MEMORY YET GREEN, left off, the celebrated author recounts how he went from being an obscure professor of biochemistry to the man George Gaylord Simpson hailed as “a natural wonder and a natural resource.” Here’s what the reviewers say about Volume II of Asimov’s life story:
“Candidly revealing the storms and triumphs that have marked Asimov’s personal and professional life…highlighted by warm and amusing anecdotes about his daily life, his children and his many friends in the SF field (among them Harlan Ellison, Frederick Pohl, Robert Silverberg and the late John Campbell)…a fascinating, entertaining look at the man behind the many manuscripts.” Things to Come, SF Book Club Magazine
“…A polymath of awesome proportions…His name is synonymous with all that is best in science fiction.” The New York Times Book Review
“Asimov charms the reader with his openness, humanity and…affectionate nature…a poet wearing science writer’s clothing.” Publisher’s Weekly
“…A labor of love…even more entertaining than Volume I.” Time
This is the second volume of Asimov’s formal autobiography (In Memory Yet Green was the first). Asimov had planned to write a third volume to be entitled The Scenes of Life, and maybe even a fourth, but never did—at least, not using the same narrative style. The Scenes of Life eventually came to be written on a different basis and published as I. Asimov: A Memoir.
This book covers 1954 to 1978. Like In Memory Yet Green (q.v.), Asimov treats himself with complete candor, admits his every fault (and virtue), and details his every failure (and success). We start with his fight with Boston University over his position—he had been writing non-fiction books on school time, and some of his superiors disapproved. It ends, neatly enough, nearly a quarter century later with Boston University’s promotion of Asimov to the rank of full Professor. Asimov is at this point at the peak of his writing career, well into his third hundred books, and the enormous success he never really believed he would become at the beginning.
Along the way, we learn about his life, the failure of his first marriage and success of his second, the death of his beloved parents—and an awful lot about his writing.
To be frank, In Joy Still Felt isn’t quite as good as In Memory Yet Green. (It’s a bit thicker, however.)
First of all, I read it second, and so it had something to live up to that In Memory Yet Green didn’t.
Secondly, the world of Asimov’s youth was more different from mine than the world of his adulthood, and therefore more interesting to read about. (Not, of course, that the world of his adulthood is terribly like mine.)
Finally, the book is less about Asimov’s struggles than his successes. Once the fight with Boston University is done and he is relieved of all but nominal duties so he can turn himself entirely to writing, the book becomes less about his life than about his writing. Fascinating though that is, and much though I enjoy learning it, and useful though the result is as a reference book— it isn’t quite as interesting.
It is, however, interesting enough to be more than well worth while, and its being slightly less wonderful than In Memory Yet Green doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful. Again, this is a book no Asimov fan should be without.
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