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This review is from: I. Asimov: A Memoir (Paperback)
This is Isaac Asimov's last autobiography, following In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 and In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1954-1978. It is written as 166 short essays--a form familiar to readers of The Good Doctor's numerous columns and short-chapter nonfiction books. The book covers his entire life by topic, only roughly in sequence. It concludes with a touching description of Asimov's final weeks written by his wife Janet, followed by a topically organized catalog of his written work.
An incomplete sampling of topics shows what Asimov valued in his life. Several chapters recount impressions of and interactions with fellow science fiction writers. They include John Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Jack Williamson, Arthur C, Clark, Harlan Ellison, and others. Asimov also discusses the science fiction community, devoting chapters to Science Fiction Conventions, More Conventions, Star Trek Conventions--apparently very different, and numerous publishers and editors he has worked with and walked away from. Chapters about Asimov's non-science fiction work include Scientific Papers, Nonfiction, Mystery Novels, Essay Collections, and The Bible. These work-oriented chapters are interspersed with others devoted to family, milestones of life, and personal challenges.
Asimov also reveals a great deal about his writing process. Writing chapters include Beginning to Write, First Novel, Prolificity (sic), Writer's Problems, Titles, and Word Processor. Reflecting on his writing, he observes: "How does one become a really prolific writer? The very first requirement is that a person have a passion for the process of writing. I mean he must have a passion for what goes on between the thinking of a book and its completion." Isaac Asimov had such passion, lived the prolific writing life, and took great pride in his accomplishments. Shortly after his death, his wife found a piece of paper on which her husband had written: "Over a space of 40 years, I sold an item every ten days on the average. Over the space of the second 20 years, I sold an item every six days on the average. Over a space of 40 years, I published an average of 1,000 words a day. Over the space of the second 20 years, I published an average of 1,700 words a day." Far from average.
I admire the hell out of Isaac Asimov. His science fiction captivated me as a child; his nonfiction instructed me as a teen and as an adult. I respect his extensive knowledge and his exhausting work habits. I still learn from The Great Explainer's nonfiction writing style--his clear prose, his self-deprecating egotism, and his strong and distinctive personal voice. I recommend his autobiography to readers, writers, and...well, everybody else. It's a well-written book about a well-lived life.