- Hardcover: 732 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (February 1979)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1299455328
- ISBN-13: 978-1299455320
- ASIN: 038513679X
- Package Dimensions: 8.2 x 6 x 2.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,412,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 Hardcover – February, 1979
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This autobiography is detailed, showing how the Russian-speaking youth moved from being an English-illiterate to the self-taught genius that all came to know. It relates how he heard people pronounce street names, examined the street signs & figured out how to read before he began his formal education. This is the story as told when he didn't feel that he was running out of time. It has a sense of fun (cf. The Endochronic Properties of Theotimoline 'practice paper' he wrote prior to his Ph.D examination). Ranging widely, it includes whole stories as examples
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Top customer reviews
And yet I believe that he has written one book (well, two books if you include the second part of his autobiography) that stands a good chance of being appreciated in one hundred years and it is this one.
Why? He gives us a picture of Brooklyn during his childhood and adolescence. Asimov makes it an enjoyable read; for one thing, he obviously enjoys writing about himself but as a conscientious writer he wants his readers to enjoy themselves too. He is honest, precise, and meticulous.
While blessed with an extraordinary mind, he lived a very ordinary childhood if a poor one. He was in born in Russia to a Jewish family who soon after emigrated to the United States. He grew up in Brooklyn where his family ran a candy store in which Isaac worked once he was old enough. He went to public school, he read voraciously, he learned to type, he was part of the pulp fiction scene, he went to Columbia for his B.S. and then for his Ph.D. in biochemistry. World War II came along and he worked for the military as a chemist. He got married.
We get a beautiful slice of pure New York Americana here. Much like Sam Pepys's famous diaries give us the feeling of living in 17th century England, Asimov's autobiography gives us the feeling of living in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Asimov's unadorned style works well here. He gives us a sweet hopeful portrait of an immigrant family that rose from poverty to middle class. Touching stuff.
Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
Note: Don't forget to order the second half: In Joy Still Felt.
''I studied this for a while and then, I interrupted the post lecture session by saying, 'Sir, why do you list mathematicians as mystics?' ''
''He said, 'Because they believe in the square root of minus one.' ''
''I said, 'The square root of minus one is perfectly real.' ''
(Which one is Asimov?)
This is vintage Asimov. Unafraid. Unaffected. Unsubmissive. Great!
This principled courage, along with determinedly analyzing (brilliantly) everything and everyone; combined with a refreshing honesty, makes for a fast, smooth, interesting journey.
Precocious childhood, Jewish traditions, American upbringing, fascination with the new science fiction pulps, writing for money as teenager, school and university travails, dating and marriage, are all here.
For those of us who have never forgotten Hari Seldon, Elijah and 'The Caves of Steel', etc., this work supplies some background. For example . . .
''What really influenced the Foundation series was Gibbon's 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', which I had read and admired as a seventeen year old.'' (400)
I Out of Russia and into Brooklyn
1 my birthplace
3 my parents
8 The candy store
II Education - in and out of School
11 entering high school
14 Seth Low Junior college
17 Astounding Science Fiction
18 John Campbell
III Advanced Degrees and Elementary Love
20 my first sales
26 making my literary mark
IV The War and the Army
36 Navy yard matters
V Into and out of Manhattan
44 Doctor of Philosophy
VI Two Careers, but Where Next?
49 beyond Campbell
53 writing vs research
55 science fiction at its peak
Sparkling jems . . .
''I nodded and said, 'Consider how we whites treat Negroes.' ''
''There was a horrified silence and ten one of them, in an awful voice, said,' What's wrong with the way we treat negroes?' She then went on to say about the negroes 'exactly' what she had just complained that anti-Semites said about Jews.''
Asimov sadly notes . . .
''That week was a liberal education concerning the blindness and bigotry of people, and how the pleasures of hatred rise superior even to the instinct of self-preservation.'' (305)
Asimov's openness, an aggressive frankness, adds depth. For example, after explaining his school work ''was all interesting, it was all fun, and, most of all, it was all easy.'' -
''Then, I found that one of my classes was on Economics, and I found further, to my deep surprise, that I 'hated' economics. I'll tell you something worse: I found to my deep embarrassment that I couldn't 'understand' economics and that nothing my teacher could say would help.'' (134)
This is a fascinating revelation. Why? Well, 'foundation' and much of his fiction describes the impact of economics. Yes, his understanding appears somewhat superficial. Interesting . . .
Asimov also notes he is a incompetent chess player. Thinks because he usually can see things 'at a glance'. Both chess and economics demand subtle reasoning that leads to counter-intuitive conclusions. Fascinating that this reaction reflects popular thought! Asimov, brilliant, incredibly well read, profoundly educated, can't stand the strange, odd, unpopular insights of economics. Amazing and typical!
Explains that he worked with Heinlein during the war. Close and compatible. However, later was surprised when he felt Heinlein change from a liberal to a conservative. This is interesting, since Heinlein didn't change to a conservative, he became libertarian! Asimov could not grasp the difference. He writing reflects this subtle weakness, this inability to understand the contrasting viewpoint.
Three themes dominate. One, his drive for education and academic status. Two, his writing and determination to make money doing it. Three, his emotional connection to the nation and politics.