David's Reviews > Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: Letters of Richard P. Feynman

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track by Richard Feynman
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's review
Jul 09, 2007

really liked it
Read in January, 2006

This is my favorite of all the various Feynman books, because it's not cluttered up with Feynman playing the lovable, picaresque, eccentric. Instead of the slightly buffoonish public persona (or "curious character") he (or his publishers) seemed to feel compelled to present in his various autobiographical writings, the letters speak for themselves. And, to my mind, the picture they paint is ultimately far more flattering than that which he himself tried to present.

Sure, there are lapses - he is not always charitable towards colleagues, he is sometimes impatient, and there is that characteristic unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. But the traits that shine through again and again in these letters, so much so that one has to think of them as his defining characteristics are generosity and graciousness. Over and over he takes the time to respond to strangers, who have written him out of the blue, with letters that are astonishing, both for their empathy as well as for the obvious care that he spent in writing them.

He may have preferred to be considered a rebel, a free-thinker, a bit of a rogue. And he certainly relished the opportunity to twit the imagination-free defenders of the status quo. But these letters establish, beyond doubt, that at heart Feynman was a true mensch.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Must read this. Thanks for the review!

message 2: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie David, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I hadn't realised it existed. I loved the previous book by him. Some people don't seem to hit it off with him - bit I totally admire him. Thanks for your review.

Christophe Van I very much agree with your review -- what we see come through the letters presented here is not the clown or the brilliant scientists, but the man and, indeed, the Mensch.

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