Heinlein (off-topic)

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Fri Aug 25 02:22:58 EDT 2000


Apologies, Melissa, for crediting Jennifer with your words...
 
+ >+ > 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.  

It seems to me that comparing _Glory Road_ to Tennyson's _Ulysses_ is
inappropriate: there isn't the ever-receding quest after glory, and Our Hero
in Heinlein has certainly not assimilated his experiences, the boor.
"I am a part of all that I have met/ Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
 Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades/ For ever and for ever..."
nope.

He just finds himself bored with the rewards of his heroing. Savinien Cyrano
II de Bergerac should have whupped him. 

An aged wife, and restlessness, yes, but Our Hero isn't old...
 
+ 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 find it impossible to let bald statements pass without qualification and
argument unless they are utterly in concord with my opinions. That's rare.
I'm going to end up the sort of sad old mad bird who shouts at the telly.

+ >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?  

_Glory Road_. I can't quibble with the American political system since I 
understand it even less than my own (I've never lost a bet on a political 
matter in the UK, but I don't bet that often!). I can't quibble with the 
Veteran pattern since it has no practical parallel (the situation in Israel
is quite unlike that in Heinlein's work).

I said that I wasn't going to quibble with that: but I am going to quibble 
over the old "marriage=formally restricted prostitution" saw. It's tosh.
Four consecutive pages of reiterated assertion are just going to irritate me.

+ I like that his characters, even when they're stupid jerks, take
+ responsibility for their actions and for their lives.  

It is indeed a noble trait. Not in the stars... but in ourselves lie faults.

+ I appreciate that he respected and admired women 

Ahem. Had an almost religious awe of red-headed wife #2, which informed his
heroines to an enormous degree? His treatment of wife #1, well... not quite
so pretty. And how much does he respect and admire women, as opposed to paying
lip-service to notions of egalitarianism and then condemning the poor feminist
types who want "equality" - since that's such a silly underestimate of the
feminine potential. I'd settle for equality, me, rather than some nebulous 
pedestal-erecting worship of Woman.

I've seen this exalting sort of rhetoric in Courtly Love poems once too often.
Guess what happens to that pedestal as soon as the goddess on it deigns to 
recognise the mortal scum who dares to court her? Yup, goddesses who bestow 
their affection and thus lose their virtue are made less worthy by their 
association with the paltry suitor. Gah!

I like the fact that women are expected to rassle hogs, solve equations, 
build and engineer alongside the men, and absolutely loathe the propensity
of these women to prefer the barefoot'n'pregnant got-a-man existence. 

If a woman is ever seen doing anything practical, she has to beat the men at
it, but much more preferable is pumping out babies once she's secured one of
these inferior beings. huh? must be some prime bloodstock eugenics thing. 

Friday is especially irritating. Mostly over rape and that royal bastard.

+ even if he never did question his assumptions about which aspects of gender 
+ were biological and which were sociological.

He might even be right ;-)  I just don't like the way that not a single one
of these tough red-headed smart girls questions her manifest biological
destiny. Even the "unconventional" marriages have to hew to Heinlein's
sociological rules for success, and that means inherent conservatism. OK, so
it's the libertarian conservatism of property, not a conservatism of "morals",
but Heinlein basically supports the rights of the rich, and claims that the
smart will always be rich and could run matters as long as the normals don't
reflexively chase the supermen. Philip Dick is so much more sophisticated.

+ I harbor a horrible fondness for the idea of society being run by the smart
+ people, since naturally I would be one of them :).

What about society run by nasty nigger cannibals (once one is propelled into
that future by a stray nuke on one's bunker)? Of course, it's easy to get back
one's original reality - as one can crack the Universal Field Theories just
so that can-do Americans can take out the slanty-eyed with a cube on a stick, 
in the name of fighting the commie menace? Those on the side of can-do America 
are still ethnically doomed to oblivion by their Bad Blood...

I like the idea of society being run by those with empathy.
 
+ 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_.

Once I started identifying what I hated about Heinlein, I found him easier to
bear. _Grumbles from the Grave_ had me cackling. I am hampered by only having
read the UK ending of _Podkayne of Mars_, but I found her very annoying. The
Competent Girl of _Have Space Suit, Will Travel_ is less annoying because she
is still in the pre-pubescent coping phase rather than succumbing to an 
overwhelming drive to breed. Podkayne flirting on the Triplanetary Tour? ugh.

If any Heinlein heroine had a career as well as kids, that would be cool.
It's the monomaniacal sprog-dropping that I find wearing. The independent
women go bad and end up seedy fatties in dressing gowns (_Door Into Summer_).

I like the Lunar Rebellion (enough that I made myself a bend-sinister cannon
flag of my very own for my college door), and _Citizen of the Galaxy_ and
the juveniles because Heinlein can tell a good story. 

I would call myself pretty heavily committed to freedom and personal 
responsibility, and I am a "space nut", but sometimes Heinlein just galls me.

Tanaqui, way off topic 
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