Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy birthday to the late, great Robert Heinlein on the 100 year anniversary of his birth

Of course there have been many, many tributes to Robert Heinlein in the past few days in the blogosphere. He was a staple of my childhood reading - Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Podkayne of Mars and The Star Beast and Rocket Ship Galileo and The Rolling Stones among the children's books, and the great Waldo story. Methuselah's Children, Orphans of the Sky (later the basis of an album that I'm embarrassed to say I still listen to, mostly on account of the Jorma Kaukonen and Jerry Garcia guitars, Blows Against the Empire, by the early Starship, and nominated for a Hugo Award) and the whole The Green Hills of Earth stories. The adult books - well, Glory Road made a lasting impression, and the great, great The Mooon Is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, Farnham's Freehold, and of course Stranger in a Strange Land. I more or less dropped out of sci-fi at around that point, and never got into the post-Stranger literature. I took up Blaise Cendrars, Stendhal, dead French poets and German writers like Bertolt Brecht and Gunter Grass.

But the Heinlein book that has had the most lasting impression on our family, curiously, is the 1950s classic Cold War thriller, The Puppet Masters. My daughter somehow latched onto it in the fourth and fifth grade as we were leaving for sabbatical in Spain. It became her security blanket, on the plane, going alone into a local Spanish speaking school in Sevilla, all the unfamiliar and scary situations involved in moving for most of a year to a strange place and strange language and strange school. She must have read it twenty or more times; I read it aloud to her at least three. She idolized Mary in the book. It - she - really was a comfort to her.

(Renee hates the movie, from the late 1990s with Donald Sutherland (I didn't mind it, though I think it was badly cast, except that Sutherland makes a wonderful Old Man) because it upsets her internal vision of the characters.)

(ps. Poking around the web, I discovered this lovely review essay by Sir Adam Roberts, the great laws of war and international law and politics scholar at Oxford, responding to criticisms of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, on the occasion of the books re-release after many years in the UK.)

(pps. Wikipedia has an excellent set of links on Heinlein, his wife Virginia, and summaries and discussions of many of his novels. Start here.)

(ppps. And this excellent piece from the Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2007, open link, here, praising Heinlein's liberatarianism, by Taylor Dinerman.)

(pppps. Also this piece by John J. Miller, a longer version of which appeared in the National Review.)


chumly said...

Movies sometimes do ruin the book.

Guanaco said...

I started reading Heinlein when I was in elementary school - I eventually went through his entire list. It was a family affair... it turns out my Dad had collected (and later left to me) every book written by Heinlein as well as most (though not all) of his pulp SF magazine stories from the 50s and early 60s. My oldest son began devouring these books when he was in junior high school.

I still list Stranger in a Strange Land as a favorite in my blogger profile.

Thanks for the post.