IN JOY STILL FELT by Isaac Asimov


The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954-1978
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The second volume of Asimov's blockbuster autobiography (begun with In Memory Yet Green, 1979) picks him up at age 34, teaching biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine and under fire as a sci-fi sensation, and leaves him, at 58, the Compleat Science Writer, dubbed by George Gaylord Simpson "a natural wonder and a natural resource." That accolade particularly pleased Asimov because it signaled recognition for a work in pure Asimovian style--the 1960 Wellsprings of Life--by the scientific community; in contrast, the also-lauded Intelligent Man's Guide to Science was and is abjured by Asimov because of heavy-handed cutting and rewriting by an editor. And that is not the only time we learn that Asimov will brook no blue-penciling, for the chapters here, with their brief numbered parts, are primarily accounts of what author Asimov was currently up to: who are the writers, editors, and publishers he's seeing; what rankles and what pleases, what brings fame or blame; and, not least, what he's earning (until the early 1960s, when he tops $70 thousand a year and draws the curtain). To be sure, wife Gertrude and the children swell a scene or two, and there are wry tales of suburban life and Jewish fatherhood. But writing is what the book is about, and to that extent it is more interesting and less self-indulgent than its predecessor. In a telling anecdote, Asimov acknowledges the insight of daughter Robyn who in little-girl fashion once asked what he would do if he had to choose between her and writing (and did not fail to note the slight hesitation in his voice, as he gave the inevitable reply). There are some interesting glimpses into how Asimov works--by plumbing the literature, we are told, never by interviews (a "waste of time"). And we learn of his compulsive need for concurrent projects: "There must be no endings. Several balls must always be in the air." In time marriage #1 dissolves, not without sadness and guilt, and marriage to Janet, the psychiatrist and intellectual soul-mate of many years, eventually takes place. In 1957, Asimov, overweight and overcommitted, suffers a coronary, which is described with typical objectivity and earns the reader's compassion. Asimov, ever admirable if exasperating, ends the book on the rebound, pounds lighter, and enthusiastic over projects to come--including (you guessed it) a fulfillment of the book's last line: "To be continued."
Pub Date: April 25th, 1980
ISBN: 0385155441
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1980


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