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"Connections" in the Biography, Part I 
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Robert A. Heinlein Biography by William Patterson: Connections, Part I

Last summer I was delighted to buy and read the the first volume of William H. Patterson, Jr.'s biography of my favorite author, Robert Heinlein. Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve has almost 500 pages of text (and almost 100 pages of notes) on the first half of Heinlein's life. I loved the book and wrote a brief, favorable review on Amazon back in June 2009. There I noted that I had

"plans to write about the 'Connections' that I made to other books and people, during and after reading, but it will take a few more days to get to that.

More than a "few days" have passed, obviously, but here at last is the first installment of some "Connections" that I found in Chapters 1-3, covering Heinlein's life through high school and his admission to the United States Naval Academy in 1925.

Authors must make choices of what to include in a book of this nature, else the book could grow beyond any reasonable length; obviously this one had to run to two volumes even with everything the author had to leave out. One of the choices Patterson made in this book was to avoid deep literary analysis of the works he describes being written in the biographical narrative. Several of the reviewers at Amazon lamented this, but I appreciate that the biographer wanted to tell Heinlein's story rather than turn the book into a textual analysis. Patterson previously co-authored a book on what is perhaps Heinlein's best known work, Stranger in a Strange Land. This biography is more about a man. I hope that some of the "connections" below can add to the enjoyment and appreciation of the biography and Heinlein's work.

(All numbers in ( ) refer to pages in the hardback first edition of the biography).

(17) "[A] half-brother of the famous Dan Patch."

See the 1948 story "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants": He picked out a likely-looking nag of the Dan Patch line, bet and won...

(23) "Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress--three books that transcend genre and give Heinlein an important place in the lives of his readers."

In a private communication, Patterson hinted that in Volume II there may be some deeper examination of these three works than there was for any individual work in Volume I.

(25) "Thou art God."

A major theme of Stranger in a Strange Land.

(28) "He practiced [card tricks] covertly, even in church..."

See the card trick/coded message scene in "Gulf."

(31) "He liked...the wry humor of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat."

See Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, where Kip references his father's love for the book, and a specific scene where the men are trying to open a tin of pineapple. This is also one of many, many books that I looked for and read after seeing a reference in Heinlein.

(33) "[H]uman beings must never be judged by categories, but only as individuals."

I just note this as individualism is such a bedrock of Heinlein's work throughout his career.

(36) "He learned to read and speak Esperanto..."

Esperanto appears in a several of Heinlein works as a future universal or common language, including, I believe, Starship Troopers and "The Green Hills of Earth." There may be others.

(40) "He also wanted to travel and unsuccessfully entered a National Geographic contest to for a prize trip to India, to see the Taj Mahal."

See the Skyway Soap "Trip to the Moon" contest in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.

(46) "...he lost his virginity during the Coolidge Administration (1923-1929) to a grandmother..."

See the sequence in I Will Fear No Evil where protagonist J.S.B Smith thinks he is perhaps dead and/or trapped in some sort of purgatory, and tried to remember his life, starting with losing his virginity as a young teenager to a woman in her 30s.

I will post a Part II in the near future. We're only 10% through the biography.

"There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk 'his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor' on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else."

Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:27 pm

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Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:02 pm
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