The Letter A (A-to-Z Challenge)


Isaac Asimov


It’s Been a Good Life (Prometheus Books, edited by Janet Jeppson Asimov)

When I was a child and wanted to read adventure stories and fiction, my mother would sometimes offer me autobiographies of famous people instead, asking me if I wouldn’t actually prefer to read them anyway because they were so fascinating and inspirational.  I did NOT want to read the autobiographies; I was as self-centered then as I am now and in my young and narrow experience I simply could not identify with or care about the stories, hardships, triumphs or life lessons of anyone over the age of twenty or so.  Thus, I take as a sign that I have grown up the fact that I am now totally addicted to autobiographies and memoirs.*

A few years later, but while I was still lusting after fiction and refusing to read inspirational autobiographies, I managed to get my hands on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series and was hooked for life.**  I read this series, and then the Robot Series, and then all the additional Foundation books that Asimov thoughtfully provided over the years, and on the day he died I felt personal loss.***

And then one evening while pawing through a pile of $.99 books at Building 19 I found his autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life.  I started reading it in the car on the way home, holding the book high to catch the headlights of the car behind ours.

A quote from the book jacket says, “Isaac Asimov revolutionized what it means to be a writer.  He created superbly enlightening science and history books about the world around him and wonderful science-fiction worlds where his readers could lose themselves for hours.  No other twentieth-century writer wrote with such Shakespearean eloquence or had more of a literary impact than Isaac Asimov.  Simply put, It’s Been a Good Life is a behind-the-scenes look at genius and a must-have for Asimov fans as well as science and science-fiction fans in general.”

I love the book myself because it is a simple, undecorated account of his own life written by a man so brilliant he doesn’t even bother to pretend that he isn’t.  There is no false modesty here, because it would be pointless, but there is no bragging either, because the facts speak for themselves.  We all know there is a way of stating facts that pretends not to be bragging, and that is a sickening thing to read, but when a person is secure in his gifts and talents and blessed with humour and eloquence the result is a delight. It is gross self-flattery to think that I could have carried on any kind of conversation that would have caught his interest for even a moment, but when I re-read Asimov’s It’s Been a Good Life I always wish I could have been his friend.

See you tomorrow for Letter B,


*A quick shuffle around the bookcases in this room, without going upstairs where I know there is another big stack of them, nets a memoir count of thirty-four.  The Goodwill is an excellent source for memoirs.  Apparently people receive them as gifts (many of mine are inscribed with birthday or Christmas greetings) and then, after a decent period of time has passed, quietly slide them into the donation bin.  Most appear to be unread.

**Why a person like myself who has no interest in actual science should have fallen so hard for science fiction is beyond me.  It’s not an indiscriminate interest though.  Only Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.  That’s it.

***The Patient Man had to break it to me gently.  I still remember that he came home from work and said, “I have some bad news.  There won’t be any more Asimov books.”  I absorbed this, and then I cried.


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4 Responses to “The Letter A (A-to-Z Challenge)”

  1. obadiahkenner Says:

    I read (or re-read) at least one Asimov book a year; just got done with Pebble in the Sky. I love the way he turns our understanding of our present-day society inside out in the future. He’s simple, profound, and completely believable.

    • becomingrosamunde2015 Says:

      And I also love how the books are almost entirely dialogue driven, and even the dialogue is natural and believable.

  2. johnmarkmiller Says:

    I love reading about the personal lives of my favorite authors… thanks for sharing this title with us!

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