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Grumbles from the Grave Hardcover – Nov 1989

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Stated First Edition edition (Nov. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345362462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345362469
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,745,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 5 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Beginning writers are advised to 'write what you know'. But if you're a writer of science fiction, where the environment is necessarily something different from the everyday world of now, how can you do this? For those who have read Heinlein's fiction, this book will provide some insights into just how this feat is accomplished. Within these pages you will find the genesis of:
The detailed space-suits of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel from his period of engineering research work on high altitude pressure suits during WWII.
How to build plumbing, bomb shelters, and move boulders from his work on his Colorado Springs house (Farnham's Freehold).
The marvelous characters of the cats that appeared in Door into Summer and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls from the cats that at various times in his life were co-owners of his habitats.
The knowledge of fencing so evident in Glory Road from his time on the fencing team at Annapolis, and the entire cadet experience that became part of the 'Lazy Man' episode of Time Enough for Love.
These are just a few of the examples of where incidents in Heinlein's life became part of his fiction, giving it that 'true to life' feel so common in his works and so rarely found in other SF writers of his generation. But this book is not a well laid out autobiography, but rather a collection of his letters to various people, mainly his literary agent, and often the items described above are included as an aside to the main subject of the letters.
Most of the material concerns itself with the details of how each of his stories was generated, the arguments he had with various editors (especially a certain one at Scribners), his working habits and the problems that prevented him from working at various times.
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By Peter King on 9 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because it was recommended in Bud Webster's excellent "Past Masters". I have not read much Heinlein other than several of his most well-known works, and those not for some years, so I'm not a serious fan, but I did enjoy this more than I expected, both for the insights into the man himself and for his relationship with his various publishers. I was particularly interested in the letters that document his changing relationship with John W. Campbell Jr.. However, I should warn the reader that most of the book is made up of letters to his agent (and good friend) Lurton Blassingame, though these are interesting nonetheless.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Planetary Consultant on 6 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Main interest of this book for me is that underneath the slick Heinlein books that I enjoyed as a kid (and stopped reading in the post "Starship Troopers" phase), exposed for all to see, are the fascinating underlying machinations of the book editing industry. As one who spends his time pounding the keyboard for a living, I found this, and the bitchiness of his editor Dalgliesh telling the man himself how to suck eggs fascinating as well as depressing. I sympathise with RAH.

What irony that the apostle of rugged pistol packing libertarian freedom had his scribblings supervised by school-matronly puritanical editor Dalgliesh. Maybe RAH was thinking of Dalgliesh when he had the loudmouth nag in Starman Jones removed from Max's Captain Table (and a similar episode when another loudmouthed nag emigrating to Ganymede in "Farmer to the Sky" was unceremoniously dumped from the colony ship and story line).... Perhaps the lurid excesses of the "I Will Fear No Evil" phase was merely the cathartic reaction of the schoolboy escaping from Dalgliesh's clutches and constant re-editing of his essays.

So we see "writing on spec" with formulaic plots and character excision existed before Star Trek. So much for artistic freedom and rugged individualism. :(

Grumbles indeed, as one sees the more grumbly nature of the man himself and his political dogma. The book further shows RAH's visceral anti Russianism, no doubt fruit of the generalised ideological flavour prevalent in the cold war years (or could it be personal?); his trip there doesn't seem to have opened his mind; not surprising being encased in a package tour cocoon with libertarian baggage in tow.

Oh well, no one's perfect, so best not to peer too closely. I'll keep the juveniles and donate this to a used bookstore.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Heinlein's thoughts, poorly edited 17 April 2004
By SPM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This collection of Robert Heinlein's letters would be very interesting if they were not cut into small chunks and arranged in a non-threatening manner. Heinlein struggled in the early years, working hard for recognition, trying to please indifferent editors, and this book documents that struggle. But nearly every letter is edited heavily, abruptly ended just as Heinlein gets going. The overall picture is fractured, leaving the reader to guess about the missing contents.
But the book is still worth a look. It provides a behind-the-scenes view of writing science fiction in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, showing how the field grew from stories about rocket ships to social commentary. Heinlein rode the wave from short story writer to literary author, and these letters show that progression. Unfortunately, the editing removes too much of the story. The editor did make one good move, however --- she devoted two chapters to letters about Stranger in a Strange Land. The background on this seminal sci-fi novel is interesting. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the history of science fiction. Other readers may be disappointed.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Why all the negativity? 28 Mar. 2001
By Bill R. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am confused by some of the other reviews of this book. Not just by the low scores, but also with the comments therein. The majority of the complaints about the book seem to be directed at Heinlien's political views and his adamantness derived therefrom. Now this is all well and good, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but the weird this is... THERE ARE ALMOST NO POLITICS IN THIS BOOK! Okay, so what is the book about then? Well, it's exactly what you'd expect, it focuses mainly on Robert's writing career. Sure, there are a few political meanderings here and there, but they are extremely few and far between. Such off-target reviews are almost enough to make one wonder whether or not these people actually read the book. Instead, this book consists of a large body of letters that were written before and (usually) after the publication of a Heinlein opus. From his first published stories, to his juveniles, to his controversial adult novels, they're all covered here. The letters show a lot about what went into the making of his works, and also shows some other interesting things, such as the trouble that RAH seemingly always had with editors and getting his words out like he wanted to. There is also a picture and sypnosis of the original version of most of the stories and novels that RAH put out. There are also letters on various other topics (such as travel, house-building, domestic life, etc.), plus a short biography of Robert (written by his wife), and a highly convenient bibliography. My only complaint about the book is that there is almost no mention made of his books written after I Will Fear No Evil. True, this isn't his best work, but they are important, and do indeed contain some fine novels (JOB, Friday). Perhaps, due to the author's deteoriating health at this time, there weren't really any letters written. However, one wishes whatever there was was included so as to make this book complete. Thus, it's not perfect, but certainly not as bad as some other have apparently made it out to be.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
From the Artist Who Hated His Work Being Called 'Art' 13 July 2002
By Patrick Shepherd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Beginning writers are advised to 'write what you know'. But if you're a writer of science fiction, where the environment is necessarily something different from the everyday world of now, how can you do this? For those who have read Heinlein's fiction, this book will provide some insights into just how this feat is accomplished. Within these pages you will find the genesis of:
The detailed space-suits of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel from his period of engineering research work on high altitude pressure suits during WWII.
How to build plumbing, bomb shelters, and move boulders from his work on his Colorado Springs house (Farnham's Freehold).
The marvelous characters of the cats that appeared in Door into Summer and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls from the cats that at various times in his life were co-owners of his habitats.
The knowledge of fencing so evident in Glory Road from his time on the fencing team at Annapolis, and the entire cadet experience that became part of the 'Lazy Man' episode of Time Enough for Love.
These are just a few of the examples of where incidents in Heinlein's life became part of his fiction, giving it that 'true to life' feel so common in his works and so rarely found in other SF writers of his generation. But this book is not a well laid out autobiography, but rather a collection of his letters to various people, mainly his literary agent, and often the items described above are included as an aside to the main subject of the letters.
Most of the material concerns itself with the details of how each of his stories was generated, the arguments he had with various editors (especially a certain one at Scribners), his working habits and the problems that prevented him from working at various times. For the Heinlein scholar or fan, this is a gold mine, providing much insight into almost all of his work. And Heinlein's own character shines through these letters, a proud, patriotic, self-disciplined, stubborn, highly opinionated, occasionally abrasive man who knew the worth of his labor and his effect on literally millions of his readers.
The letters are organized by theme (Beginnings, Juvenile Novels, Adult Novels, Travel, Fan Mail, Building, etc) and this easily allows the reader to see the progression of ideas and events within each of these subjects. But it has a downside in that items referenced in, say, the Building section have direct impacts on his writing schedule for a book covered in the Juvenile Novels section. Sometimes these relationships, while important, are not obvious to the reader due to this structure. After reading this book twice, and seeing just how much this type of thing occurs, I think I would have preferred having the letters organized in pure chronological order.
This is not a book for someone who has not read at least a few of Heinlein's fiction works, as the material will hold little interest other than some points on how the publishing industry works and just how this particular writer worked (which is not the writing class recommended method). But for those who, like myself, have read all or most of his works, this book can add a richness of background to his fiction works, a sense of 'growing closer' to the man who many call the greatest writer of science fiction, ever.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A choppy but important collection of letters 14 Aug. 2000
By Robert James - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert Heinlein remains the twentieth century's most important science fiction writer, and the one most capable of provoking arguments. This collection of letters, edited by Virginia Heinlein from the surviving correspondence of over 100,000 letters now locked away in the archives in UC Santa Cruz until fifty years after her death, is the closest we're going to see in this lifetime to Heinlein's private opinions on a variety of subjects. Publisher Lester Del Rey insisted on the letters being cut up into various topics, rather than the more standard chronological presentation; many of these letters contain the backgrounds to a number of Heinlein's fictional and personal projects. Most of the letters are to John Campbell and Heinlein's agent from the late forties until the mid-seventies, Lurton Blassingame; most of them also deal with something Heinlein wasn't happy about, so the title of the book is indeed descriptive: many of them do grumble pretty seriously. There are only three books that really give a picture of Heinlein the man, rather than Heinlein the writer: besides this one, there is "Expanded Universe," with its prefaces and afterwords that often reveal private insights, and there is "Tramp Royale," a travelogue which is the closest thing we'll ever see to an autobiography. None of these books is going to interest a casual reader, but all three are pure gold to a Heinlein fan. Until we finally see a full biography (which may not be for another fifty years, since the correspondence is locked up), this is the best we've got.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Grand Masters wife gives us a depressing book 14 Jun. 2000
By Peter Dykhuis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Grumbles from the Grave saddened me. Part of the sadness I am sure arose from the fact that I only became of fan of Mr. Heinlein's after he was dead and gone. It wasn't anger our dismay at his political views. If anything I am in modest agreement with a great number of them. My sadness stemmed more from the tone and tenor of the volume.
As most of you are aware the book is series of letters to and from Mr. Heinlein and John Campbell Jr. and his agent. (There are a few other people but so small a number they hardly bear mentioning.) Mr. Heinlein's wife of forty years collected and edited the letters into this volume that Mr. Heinlein wanted to finish before his death in 1988. I don't understand Virginias, Mr. Heinlein's wife, choice in the letters. She seemed to choose the letters that showed and made more obvious the petty side of Robert Anson Heinlein. It was disturbing to me. Disturbing, not because I thought Mr. Heinlein perfect, but because of the depressing tone and quantity of the letters included.
I can't help but compare this book with another similar work completed after the author's demise. The other book I refer to is Yours Isaac Asimov. In the Asimov book the format is the same. A compilation of letters gathered and categorized posthumously in a book format. Isaac's brother Stanley did the editing in this case. What a difference. The Asimov book was filled with a mans writings and his politics, which I totally disagreed with. The book was a masterful work full of the letters reflecting the optimism Asimov had even if I disagree with just about every aspect of his core beliefs. Heinlein is different. I agree with nearly everything he did but find this book cheapening and sad and I wonder why Virginia would put it together and publish it as such.
All in all I was glad to know more about Mr. Heinlein but sad at what it was I was told.
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