Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book recommendation: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialog WIth His Century

I have just finished reading a fascinating biography of Robert A. Heinlein, the (not just "a") science fiction writer, many of whose works I incorporated in my classes at Adrian College, and one of which (Double Star) helped inspire my doctoral dissertation on constitutional monarchy. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialog With His Century was written by William H. Patterson, Jr., and this book is volume 1 of what promises to be a two volume work. It takes Heinlein up to about 1948, when he married his third and final wife. (It was news to me that Virginia Gerstenfeld was number 3; I had always thought she was number 2.)

It is very interesting to find out how many interesting people Heinlein knew and worked with during his long life, including not only most of the other leading science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century but also people like Alfred Korzybski, S.I. Hayakawa, and Helen Gahagan Douglas. Douglas had served three terms in the House of Representatives but was defeated in her bid to be elevated from the House to the Senate by Richard Nixon, which is well-known. What I had not known was that she was only the second woman elected to Congress and the first to be elected as a Democrat. (I am assuming the author has it right here but haven't checked it out.*)

I found this interesting because I have done a little writing about the first woman elected to Congress, Jeanette Rankin, who was a Republican and who gained some distinction by being the only member of Congress to vote against declaring both World War I and World War II (against Japan). She had lots of company in opposing World War I but was the only vote against war with Japan in 1941.

All long-time Heinlein fans like myself will be fascinated with this biography, and like myself will be waiting impatiently for Mr. Patterson to finish up volume 2.

* P.S. Douglas was NOT the first Democratic woman to serve in Congress. It is possible that she was the first one ELECTED to Congress, as distinguished from appointed to fill vacancies. I will continue to look into this.

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