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It's Been a Good Life Hardcover – March 1, 2002
All Books, All the Time
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From Publishers Weekly
Condensed by Asimov's widow from the remarkably prolific author's three-volume autobiography, this fascinating but somewhat disjointed collection of excerpts conveys the exuberant spirit of one of the most celebrated founding fathers and eighth Grand Master of American science fiction, who died in 1992. As a child of Russian Jewish immigrants, Asimov gazed longingly at encyclopedias in more affluent friends' homes, and grew up to be a walking encyclopedia himself: a self-educated polymath and humanist, he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and later received over a dozen honorary doctorates. Asimov's widow presents chronologically his thoughts on his writing in the context of his life and his lifelong secular humanism; she connects them with a minimum of editorial comment and occasionally adds illuminating passages from their previously unpublished private correspondence. Also included are a brief chronology of Asimov's life; his posthumous 400th essay "A Way of Thinking," which his wife assembled from their discussions and letters defending "Reason against Chaos"; Asimov's favorite among his multitudinous short stories, "The Last Question," which is quintessential Asimov in its spare, conversational style simmering with optimistic cosmic humor; and the surprising revelation that Asimov's 1992 death was caused by complications from AIDS, which he had contracted through blood transfusions during his 1983 bypass surgery. Generously exposing both Asimov's immense talents as a science fiction author and his ruefully amusing self-deprecating punctures of his own early inflated self-image, this readable and idiosyncratic self-portrait should attract a whole new generation of readers to Asimov's fine creative works. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Isaac Asimov the author of hundreds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, including the "Foundation" series was a rationalist, convinced that the act of writing was Heaven for him. That rationalism is evident in his three-volume autobiography, which has been condensed into this single-volume work, accompanied by some personal letters compiled by his second wife, Janet Jeppison Asimov. Asimov's know-how, opinions, joys, and successes as a writer, educator, soldier, husband, father, and general intellectual show-off are detailed to varying degrees, but so are his booby prizes. He readily admits to being very self-involved, a necessity for a writer of his output, but such self-centeredness did not work well for his first marriage. It is, however, impossible not to like Asimov and his enthusiasm, even glee, for life as it comes. Asimov was often ill later in life, but his optimism and love of learning remained. Janet Asimov presents a "revelation" in the epilog of this book, but the impression that will last is of Isaac Asimov, the humanist. Recommended for all libraries. Robert L. Kelly, Ft. Wayne Community Schs., IN
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
It's greatest strength, however, is that it draws together disparate sources to complete some unified themes, separated into discrete chapters. Janet Asimov has scoured and collected writings from several different sources to create what one imagines is a complete picture of Isaac Asimov regarding each topic, covering, for example, his early life, his education, his work, war time experiences, his death, and of course, science fiction and his writing efforts, to name but a few.
Janet Asimov weaves the strands together with a light and loving touch, her warmth apparent in every addition; her own words always appear in brackets to clarify them from her husband's. This is at once a touching strength of the book and it's only minor weakness, as it makes for a slightly choppy experience for the reader. Each ellipsis and edit makes one wonder what bits may have been cut out, though in the end one settles down and trusts that she has included anything pertinent to the theme.
For those unacquainted with Asimov's life and work, the book is an excellent summary. For those who have read his previous autobiographies it provides an easy opportunity for revisitation without expending the time necessary to wade through the larger volumes. The new material is worth owning as well, including reprints of his favourite story of all time, and his 400th and final essay for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
However, the Kindle format is disappointing. You cannot change the font, as you can with most ebooks. The typeface that’s fixed here has stems and crossbars that practically disappear on my Kindle Paperwhite.
Further, the scanned/OCR’d text (if that’s how they did it) was not proofread. There are many gaps and typos, and even ink splotches, that come across as amateurish in a professionally-published $10 ebook.
Nonetheless, I loved learning more about one of my favorite authors through his own letters and journal entries. I understand the man much more fully after learning of his childhood first-hand.
If I had it to purchase over again, I would get the print edition. The Kindle version needs to be completely remade.
His fiction always took what was known to science and asked, 'Where might it have gone? How might it have developed?' in ways that were always entertaining as well as thought-provoking.
This book gives the reader a privileged insight into a rare mind.in a way that is irresistibly fascinating.