This review is of the extended second edition (“Original Uncut”) of Heinlein’s seminal cultural satire Stranger in a Strange Land. Avoid it. It is inferior to the first edition, having been subjected to reversion of all of the author’s edits that had tightened up the original manuscript without losing any significant content. (In fact, a few items were added in that edit, and these are consequently missing from the longer edition.) The editorial apparatus of this posthumous reissue falsely suggests that integral content was removed from the manuscript for its first publication, in deference to public mores. The longer book is in fact a crass commercial ploy, intended to get readers of the author’s most popular work to buy it a second time, after it had already stayed in print continuously for thirty years.
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: Learning Curve 1907-1948 by William H. Patterson.
The first volume of William H. Patterson’s magisterial authorized biography of science fiction patriarch Robert A. Heinlein covers an immense amount of ground, including all of Heinlein’s life prior to his work as a writer, work that he came to out of need as a third career. He had previously retired from the US Navy and worked as a political campaigner, primarily with the socialist EPIC movement in California associated with Upton Sinclair. This book spans all three of Heinlein’s marriages, his complete writing career in the pulps, his Manana Literary Society, his engineering work for the military in World War II, and his entry into the “slicks” and book authorship.
In a very minor point, I was amused at Patterson’s being stumped by a private Heinlein manuscript that mentions “Bljdf” (57), which is to my mind certainly “Alice” (a simple substitution cipher with the second letter evading encryption), i.e. Alice Catherine McBee (45).
The chief nugget I was seeking in the deep mine of this hefty tome is on page 374, where Patterson recounts Heinlein’s attendance at an Agape Lodge (Pasadena) O.T.O. Gnostic Mass in December 1945. There is a little sloppiness of detail here–Patterson characterizes the Gnostic Mass uncharitably as “a theatrical piece, rather than a true religious rite” and manages to botch every one of his three direct quotes from Liber Legis in a long explanatory endnote (569-70). But his access to Heinlein’s archives inspires confidence in his un-sourced remark that Heinlein kept “for research” the congregational missal sheet and copy of The Book of the Law he had received from the lodge.
I’m honestly feeling a fair amount of relief at having finished both hefty volumes of this work. I wish they were in my local public library for the convenience of my ongoing research, but now that I’ve read them and taken my notes, they’ve both been returned to the interlibrary system that furnished them to me. They were not quite so compelling or obviously useful that I’ll want to acquire them for my own durable collection. [via]
In 1973 the eminent science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote to his literary agent contemplating “a memoirs-autobiography job to be published posthumously” (198) as an opportunity to vent some spleen and to benefit his anticipated widow. It was to be entitled Grumbles from the Grave, but Virginia Heinlein’s editorial note indicates that the work in question never progressed beyond the notes stage. Instead, she lifted the title for the use of this correspondence memoir, consisting in the main of letters written by Heinlein to his pulp-era publisher John W. Campbell and to his subsequent agent Lurton Blassingame. These are contextualized with bridging memoir text by Virginia Heinlein, who selected and edited the letters for publication.
The arrangement is not strictly chronological. After the first five chapters progressing through the early stages of Heinlein’s writing career, there are ten chapters divided by topic, and the letters are not all arranged by date even within the topics. There are no letters here from the 1980s — a decade in which he wrote four major books. During this period he also divested himself of other interactions with his reading public, ceasing to give public appearances, answer fan mail, or otherwise play the role of an author other than simply to write books (249).
Many letters illustrate Heinlein’s love of cats, frustration with editors, health troubles, household moves, and world travel. With respect to this last, reference is made to a full MS drafted by Heinlein of a travel book detailing his global circumnavigation in 1953-4. It was unpublished when first written, and declared to be “outdated” by Virginia Heinlein in 1989, but I wonder if it wouldn’t read as interesting history today (186-7). (Edited to add: I’ve found out that it was given a later 1992 posthumous publication, under the title Tramp Royale.) Appendices include material expurgated from the published versions of the juvenile-market novels Red Planet and Podkayne of Mars: a little gun rights discussion and the death of Podkayne, respectively.
I enjoyed this book, but I can’t help suspecting that it omitted most of the Heinlein correspondence that would have been of greatest interest to me, by focusing on the author’s accomplishments and circumstances rather than his ideas. I appreciated the letters reflecting on his authorial process (43, 107 e.g.), and the best letter by far was one to “a Reader” regarding Stranger in a Strange Land (242-7). The biographical elements are as full as a reader of my interests would like. [via]
This science fiction book, packaged as the third volume of Heinlein’s “Future History,” includes a novel, a novelette, and a short story. The novel, “If This Goes On…” is the principal feature, from which the title Revolt in 2100 is derived; it is also of great interest to Freemasons.
“If This Goes On…,” first published in 1954, is set in a not-too-distant future where the U.S. is governed by a theocratic tyranny. The hero of the story finds himself falling afoul of the authorities, and ends up getting involved with an underground resistance movement that champions individual rights and religious liberty. That “Cabal” is clearly modeled on Masonry, in both its ideals and its techniques.
The story shows elements of the libertarian philosophy that Heinlein refined throughout his career, but the pacing is fast and action-oriented. It can be read in a very few sittings, and makes good light fare. [via]
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