Heinlein (off-topic)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Aug 23 13:09:05 EDT 2000


On Wed, 23 Aug 2000 15:12:23 +0100 (BST), Tanaqui wrote:

>I think this was Jennifer (though I never received the original message,
>just lizzie's comprehensive inclusion of it).
> 
>+ > then there's Heinlein; I like his style, and I don't disagree with his
>+ > baldly-stated opinions, which are usually the objections people have to
>+ > his books.  

That was me.

>I would be fascinated to see you justify the whorish-women claims in 
>_Glory Road_. 

I don't at all.  _Glory Road_ is awful.  On what basis does the male
protagonist justify his insistence that Glory subjugate herself to him?
That he's a man?  That he is physically skilled?  He was a complete jerk.
The only interesting thing about that book was the second ending--after the
resolution of the quest, and the "hero" is living in luxury and idleness and
hates it, and therefore goes out into the world to continue adventuring.
It's basically the same premise as Tennyson's "Ulysses"...but even here
Heinlein doesn't pursue some of what I think are interesting possibilities,
and so it's interesting only in theory.  Probably the concept of the
warrior-male is a basic assumption for Heinlein, but if he had explored the
implications of his beliefs more thoroughly, it would have been a different
book (and Heinlein a different writer).  I hated that book SOOOOO
much--enough that I cannot remember enough details to make a more cogent
argument about it.  I do know someone who loved it...perhaps I should get
his input.  (And no, it's not because he's a frothing male chauvinist that
he loved it.)

I specifically said "I don't disagree with his opinions" because I mean just
that.  I don't necessarily agree with all of them either.  For example:

>I'm not going to quibble over untested ideas like enfranchisement only for
>veterans (though I'm not going to defend that book), but faced with bald 
>nonsense, I find the reading provokes me as much as some early-morning TV 
>talking-head spouting tosh.

But what's the bald nonsense?  That the American system of representative
government is ineffective because of uninformed or uncaring voters, or the
idea of veteran-only enfranchisement?  Heinlein made a lot of assumptions
based on his own experiences (and he seemed to regard the military with
nearly unqualified approval, which I think is insane) but it's his solutions
to problems that seem most generally offensive; at least, my point of view
is that as a fairly conservative thinker, I have more in common with
Heinlein on a fundamental level than I do with some of his specific ideas.
Another untested idea he had was casual nudity and promiscuous sex as a cure
for unnatural prudishness and fear of sexuality.  I'm not planning to test
that one out any time soon.

I like that his characters, even when they're stupid jerks, take
responsibility for their actions and for their lives.  I appreciate that he
respected and admired women even if he never did question his assumptions
about which aspects of gender were biological and which were sociological.
I harbor a horrible fondness for the idea of society being run by the smart
people, since naturally I would be one of them :).

I have noticed recently that I'm more aware of my disagreements with
Heinlein's arguments than I used to be.  On the other hand, that makes my
reading a little spicier, I think; he is a good candidate for strong
literary analysis, and several of his books work as time capsules for the
'50s (like _Farnham's Freehold_, which also bugged me a lot and left me with
no desire to ever learn to play bridge).  But I still love certain
ones--_The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, or _Space Cadet_, or _Citizen of the
Galaxy_.  And I could write reams about _Podkayne of Mars_.

Melissa Proffitt
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