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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better

(Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Tor Books
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Manuel Antão
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Disclaimer: I was recruited into my professional career by reading Heinlein in my formative years, especially the juveniles. I didn’t even pretend to be unbiased when writing this. So read on at your own peril.

When modern SF began, there were two kinds of SF writers: those who broke into print at the top of their powers, like Burroughs and Van Vogt, and those whose later work showed significant improvement. In spite of Heinlein’s ear
Forrest Carr
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
(This is a personal essay but it also serves as an introduction to Robert Heinlein and as a mini-review of “Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century” by William H. Patterson, Jr. Volume Two of which was just recently published.)

I want to tell you about something that won’t mean much to you or anyone else, but it knocked me off my feet. So I’m sharing it here in the belief that if it’s so important to me, then maybe my friends, blog readers and radio listeners might also find it interestin
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Back in 2011, I reviewed the first volume of William H. Patterson, Jr.’s biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948).

It’s been a while getting here, but now, over three years later, we have the second (and final) volume. In this volume we look at Heinlein’s reaction to mounting celebrity and fame, his progressively more conservative political views, his increasingly confounding (and increasingly weighty) novels.

Whereas Volume One explained Heinlein’s life up
Chris Aylott
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've seen some comments to the effect that this is not a literary biography, which is puzzling -- how can a writer's biography not be literary?

What the reviewers mean, of course, is that there is no extended discussion of Heinlein's works in the book. Patterson sticks to the events, people and things in Heinlein's life, and that's quite all right. Heinlein incorporated all those elements into his writing, and you can see the steady ripple of experiences into his work a year or two later. That ki
May 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm a fan of Heinlein's books and I have been long fascinated by the man himself, but this hagiography of the man and his wife does not serve his legacy well. It also completely misses the context and influence of his work, with long detailed passages about the Heinleins' every illness, and blow-by-blow descriptions of every time someone offended them, however minor or petty the insult. A more appropriate title would be "Robert A. Heinlein, The People Who Offended Him and How He Showed Them". Th ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the conclusion of Patterson's Heinlein biography, picking up with his third marriage in 1948 and continuing for the duration of his life. It's a bit longer than the initial volume, but it held my interest better, perhaps because I was more familiar with the works and events. It's a really massive work, with hundreds of pages of footnotes and appendixes that are frequently as entertaining as the main text. (I kept two bookmarks in place, one for where I was in the text and one in the corr ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
If you are into Heinlein and have read most everything he wrote (some several times), you'll probably want to read this. Otherwise, you won't.

If you're looking for insights into the books themselves, you won't find them here. This is not a literary biography, along the lines of Brian Boyd's bio of Nabokov, or Edel on Joyce or James. But then again, Heinlein was no Nabokov or Joyce. Still, Patterson never really gives you an idea of why Heinlein is worth the biography. Oh, he does tell us about
Katherine L
Jun 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I much preferred the first volume, but this one's definitely worth a read too.

As the reviews say, it is indeed fun to read through and find out "oh, so that's where he got ________." It's also worth reading if you plan to write; there is actually a surprising amount in there about Heinlein's writing process.

However, I just didn't learn much. If you've read the stuff published after Heinlein's death (Tramp Royale, Take Back Your Government, Grumbles from the Grave, Requiem) and Fred Pohl's remin
Joshua Buhs
Only for those who want to know every time that Robert Heinlein farted, and that each bit of flatulence smelled like roses.

This is a very bad book. It is also very long, but I don't want to spend much time on the review. The only thing that kept it from getting a single star was that Patterson clearly did a lot of research. He was diligent going through Heinlein's archives, and knows everything that Heinlein ever wrote down.

Unfortunately, all that work is marred by a lack of curiosity, a terribl
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
[b]Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century; Volume II: The Man Who Learned Better[/b] by William H. Patterson, Jr.

This (naturally enough) takes up where the first half, [B]Learning Curve[/B] ended: exactly half-way through Heinlein's eighty-year life, just married to his third wife, Virginia (nee Gerstenfeld).

These are the years of Heinlein's gradual triumph, encompassing (arguably) his most influential books, the juveniles; [B]Destination Moon[/B] (a strange mixture of triumph and disa
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
This book should never have been this long. In fact, this biography should and could have been written in one volume instead of two, but the author seems to have no concept of what is relevant and what is interesting. I almost gave up on it on several occasions, and I basically wound up grudge reading the last several chapters because I'd already spent so much time on it. ...more
Eamonn Murphy
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Here, at last, is the long-awaited second volume of the authorised biography of Robert A. Heinlein. ‘Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve’ told the story of his boyhood, his time in the navy and the beginnings of his writing career. ‘Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume 2: 1948-1988: The Man Who Learned Better’ starts in 1948, by which time he was selling short stories to high paying magazines like the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ a ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
This one has less editorial about how heroic Heinlein was. Patterson still explains several times that Heinlein's almost unique perspective was right, and people who disagreed with him were wrong or incapable of understanding reality. There is at least a (very) little much-needed perspective on Heinlein's faults. There is also some appreciation for Virginia's largely unheralded contribution to the canon.

Next I need to read the criticism of Patterson's criticism -- which is remarkably uncritical
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Finished Robert Heinlein, The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988 by William H. Patterson, Jr. This book is the second volume of Patterson's biography of Heinlein. He certainly presents every detail about Heinlein's life. The book is ultimately disappointing since like the first volume it lacks any critical analysis of Heinlein or his work. Why did Heinlein the early left leaning libertarian politician end up as a member of the John Birch Society and a backer of Barry Goldwater? Was it the influen ...more
John Cooper
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Because the two volumes of William Patterson's biography of Robert Heinlein make up a single work, and because most readers who finish the first volume will want to proceed to the second, this is a combined review of both volumes.

Patterson has poured as much time and research into this big biography of Heinlein as typically goes into a life of a major historical figure, and the result is engrossing, especially the first volume. Heinlein overcame a childhood of emotional neglect, a lack of financ
Al Lock
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has read any of Robert A. Heinlein's work. The author has done a fantastic job in capturing this strong willed individual in all his strengths and flaws.
Ken Richards
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars
The success of William Patterson's meticulous biography of one of the giants of Science Fiction is that is elicits in the reader a desire to revisit the work of the master, and evaluate how well it has fared against the depredations of the Suck Fairy.

These volumes are authorised by Heinlein's widow Virginia, and so have a tendency to toe the party line, particularly as it concerns some problematic relationships with some folk in fandom Heinlein came to dislike. Whilst the earlier volum
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After slogging through Volume I, I was afraid this one would be boring as well. But Robert Heinlein's life was far more interesting as an adult. I didn't need to learn about every single person he met but of course the people we meet and exchange ideas with are what helps define us and gives us food for thought.
I felt badly for him about his second wife, Leslyn. She was so used to treating him badly whenever she felt like it, it took meeting a balanced woman, Ginny, for him to realize how he des
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Patterson continues and completes his well-researched bio of Robert Heinlein with this second volume. In his later years Heinlein's hawkish politics colored his work and fame. This book details the SF writer's evolution in a more nuanced way than I remember during those years. Heinlein comes across as moral and principled, even if you don't agree with him. My one criticism of this work is there is so much detail about Heinlein's day to day life that it overshadows his novels, which I would have ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Stumbled on this accidentally when search new ebooks on the library site. I am a fan of Heinlein's writings but didn't know much about him personally so decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately the library didn't have volume 1

Thoroughly researched but written as an almost daily account of his life with little insight into the reasons why he did things. I recognized some of the titles of "boys books" that I had read in junior high - no one told me they were for boys. But little analysis of the wo
Fredrick Danysh
This biography of Robert A. Heinlein covers the last forty years of his life and his second marriage. We get a glimpse of both his professional and personal life as well as some background on the stories he wrote during his lifetime. There are over 200 pages of endnotes and appendixes as well as copies of letters by his wife after his death. Heinlein was indeed A Stranger in A Strange Land.
Bill Yancey
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice to see how and when Heinlein got some of his ideas. The man was a genius, and misunderstood by the media.
Rafeeq O.
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The second volume of William H. Patterson's Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with his Century is an enjoyable and informative read for anyone with an interest in Heinlein, and especially those who have read the first volume. I confess that I probably enjoyed the first volume over this one just a hair more, but I believe this is simply a natural product of the material. The details of Heinlein's early period, after all--his naval career, his marriage to Eleanor Curry and then to Leslyn MacDonald, ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Not as interesting as the first volume, but not as bad as some of the reviews I've read would have you believe. Some of the reviews were critical of how 'worshipful' Patterson is of Heinlein. I saw quite a bit of respect rendered in both volumes, but not a lot of worship. The biggest criticism I would render is most everything is shown from Heinlein's side of the matter and people in opposition to him are default wrong. Relationships are more complicated than that, and they certainly were in Hei ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm somewhat torn about giving this book four stars as I gave the same rating to the first volume and this concluding book does not work as well as the initial one. Patterson's unquestioning admiration of Heinlein, and his wife who was a major source for this authorized biography, is much more evident than in the first volume and his seemingly complete inability to acknowledge that Heinlein might have been (gasp!) wrong or at least too quick to judge becomes overwhelming. At times it is impossib ...more
Mark Palmer
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
A life long Heinlein fan, I picked up the second volume of Patterson's biography first. I wasn't sure I wanted to wade through his early years first - rather I wanted to get at him during his prime years.

Patterson's biography is well researched and detailed. This is not light reading and some may be turned off by some of the mundane day to day details of Heinlein's life. But the book gave me some better insight behind the books and RAH's politics of the day.

The downside for me is that Patterson
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Bill died a few months ago, but he'd finished this book and that makes me happy even as I grieve for the loss of a friend. I read it without stopping, almost, gripped by the details I'd never known, absorbed by the fleshing out of stories I did know. Heinlein and Ginny became very real and I felt for them as they struggled with life, far more than I ever realized. Their health issues...goodness. Crisis after crisis with debilitating illnesses and countless operations.

I knew Ginny online toward t
John Orman
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Volume 1 of this set described the first 40 years of Heinlein's life, this volume covers the last 40 years, after he had "learned better."

Heinlein, on of the premier science fiction writers of the 20th century, continued to point out the way to the future. Heinlein wanted to confront the future on his own terms, grasping it by the throat.

In this period, Heinlein was at the height of his career, and had a large influence on society outside the sphere of genre fiction.

Heinlein's goal was to adva
Rich McAllister
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read2014
Less satisfying than the first volume. Alternatingly fascinating and infuriating, not unlike the subject himself. Patterson injected a bit too much of his own opinions, and I found things I know are wrong ("The Glory That Was" is not a story collection, it's a novel) that it's hard to know how much to trust anything. I did love the story about Paul Kantner writing for permission to use some Heinlien words and concepts in "Blows against the Empire", and Heinlein writing back revealing himself to ...more
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William Patterson lived in San Francisco, California. He published numerous articles and two books on the works of Robert A. Heinlein, and he was a frequent public speaker on Heinlein and his works.

Other books in the series

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century (2 books)
  • Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve

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