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In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1954-1978 Hardcover – April 1, 1980
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He begins as a newly minted chemistry Ph.D. with a knack for giving good (great) lectures but with no special affinity for original academic research. He continues writing and this supplements his income. He lands a job in Boston and eventually becomes an associate professor of biochemistry in Boston University's department of medicine.
He turns from writing fiction to non-fiction and gradually his writing income exceeds his medical school income and circumstances push him to write full time, much to his delight.
Asimov meets friends and editors for lunch and dinner, he begins a side career as a speaker, he travels a little but only by car, train, or cruise ship since this man who zips through space in his mind won't get on an airplane. He raises two children, divorces, moves back to New York, and remarries. By the end of this account, he's written and published over 200 books.
I'm a great fan of Asimov but I am under no illusion. As a writer of fiction Asimov wrote fun, clever, hugely entertaining stories but I doubt they will be read in a hundred years the way Edgar Allan Poe's stories are today. His fiction entertains but doesn't soothe or enlighten the soul. As a non-fiction writer of science, new discoveries can only make his books outdated. His books on history and literature will last longer, but the fact is there are better books than his on those topics.
In the end though, Isaac Asimov was a phenomenal human being and I don't see why that topic will ever be dated. Perhaps he was not an original thinker like Marvin Minsky or a literary novelist like John Irving. But his account of his own life gives us an intimate and realistic portrait of family life in the 1960s and of the fun an intellectual could have in New York in the 1970s.
This book will, I think, stand the test of time.
Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
Well, I got a rather beat up volume through Amazon at a good price, and slogged my way through it. The genius is, as someone pointed out, the ability Asimov to make the ordinary interesting. The book is organized so that you can just do quick reads on the sections, and always have a comfortable place to stope, which is important in a book this size.
What I found with this book was the emergence of Asimov the writing machine. He became so productive and prolific it is amazing. The book gives some insight on how he managed multiple projects at once. It also shows a man that has varied interests and an unbelievable thirst to learn.
The only reason I gave this a 4 was because it does become pretty laden with "I went to this conference," "I got this award," "I talked to this publisher," "I wrote this book/article," and so on. It seems that Asimov did little but write. It is also interesting that there is not detail really as to why his marraige broke up, it just sort of happens. Some more personal detail here, as well as with his relationships with his kids, would be nice. The first part of the autobiography was so interesting in how he was established as an author, and the details of how that happened and his sheltered life as a child make for a fascinating story. The second half is basically an accounting as to how he remained sucessful, and is a little less interesting.
It does seem, however, that Asimov is able to praise where praise is due, and it is interesting, knowing that he and his wife had issues, that he is so kind in his portrayal of her. Maybe he didn't want a trashy autobiography, or he is careful about privacy. It just seems odd, but it is a minor quibble.
Asimov wrote with such a easy to read, understandable style. There is plenty of humor, anectdotes, and plenty of things to make it an interesting read.
Asimov kept a diary or journal for most of his life and he is able to tell us about events as they occur throughout the year. In addition to learning about the events surrounding the writing of his stories and books, the reader also learns much about his character, politics, intelligence, and other facets of this fascinating person. The journey is a lot of fun.