Isaac Asimov was the first writer I felt like I had an intimate relationship with. Before I was spellbound by Harlan Ellison's confessional nonfiction, long before I became one of Stephen King's Constant Readers, I read everything I could find by Asimov.

Isaac was to me a paragon of reason, wit, intelligence, and imagination. I enjoyed his fiction when I was a teen, but I adored his nonfiction. Asimov did lengthy autobiographical notes in his Before the Golden Age anthology. He obsessively wrote chatty introductions to his story collections.

I even read the mammoth two-volume Isaac Asimov autobiography. Together In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt comprise over fifteen hundred pages. What can a person who spent nearly every waking minute at a typewriter possibly have to say with that much verbiage?

Isaac was smart, very funny, and a congenial host in this minutely-detailed account of his life. I was never bored, but his experiences in the world of science fiction held the most interest to me.

If those books were not enough, Asimov did another autobiographical book called I. Asimov. Kind of a play on I, Robot and a sneaky way of simply stating his name.

Rather than a recitation of the events of his life, as in the previous volumes, I. Asimov is more contemplative. The book reveals more of Isaac's thoughts and reflections. He sometimes comes off as a corny old fashioned fussbudget, but mostly Isaac recounts a zeal for learning and a penchant for using humor to maneuver through life.

He shares some of the lessons he learned. Asimov was a prodigiously intelligent young man, and was an unpleasant pedant until he realized that people do not wish to be lectured. He became tolerant of the ignorance others and found that habitually correcting people served no good purpose. If asked, Isaac would joyfully discourse on any subject. If not asked, he kept quiet. This revelation led to greater happiness and more professional and personal success.

At one point as a young man Isaac was complaining about something, and a woman admonished him, asking what made him think his problems were so special. He took it to heart and began to loathe self-pity.

Asimov pointedly stated that rather than the all-explaining oracle some think it is, Science always yields more questions than answers.

I don't think it's possible for an atheist to have a more positive outlook on death than Isaac had. He wrote I. Asimov through late-life illnesses and body deterioration. He faced the end of his life with wit, acceptance, and keen understanding of the biological process.

While I love I. Asimov and his other works, I doubt he and I would exactly be friends. He abhorred hard partying, while I indulged in it for much of my life. Asimov hated rock and roll. His hair would probably fall out if he had to sit through a Frank Zappa album. Isaac undoubtedly liked slasher movies as much as I like Gilbert and Sullivan (not much).

All that doesn't stop me from being an enormous fan of the man and everything he stood for. As far as I am concerned, Isaac Asimov is one of the greatest human beings who ever lived.

I. Asimov is a guided tour through a life of joy. Of passion for knowledge, food, humor, companionship, and and the arts. The man loved nothing more than sitting at his typewriter and sharing his thoughts with the world. We are richer for having had him.

Written by Mark Sieber

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry