"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Nobel laureates in physics seem to be expected to write a book which explains their work and its relationship to people’s lives. Sometimes, this is followed up with a memoir or chronicle of the development of the laureate’s intellectual and scientific self. In all the history of laureate literature, there has been no equivalent of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character; it can be argued that Dr. Feynman himself is unique if not peerless. What most sets it apart from other memoirs of famed physicists is its lack of introspection and self-analysis. The book is a collection of anecdotes, not diary entries expanded to chapter length. Yet in its way, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” epitomizes the man. The title itself is indicative of the intent and the effect of the book; he is both telling jokes and challenging the reader’s preconceptions of what a physicist is and what kinds of books he or she should write.
As if the content were not shocking enough, the book was essentially, if not legally, ghostwritten—note the “as told to Ralph Leighton” at the bottom of the title page. Yet this is no ordinary ghostwriter seeking to make a popular hero’s ramblings into something palatable or literate; Dr. Leighton teaches physics alongside Feynman at the California Institute of Technology and was instrumental in converting Feynman’s lectures into a justifiably acclaimed physics text....
(The entire section is 2092 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Choice. XXII, April, 1985, p. 1184.
Library Journal. CX, March 15, 1985, p. 56.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. February 24, 1985, p. 1.
Nature. CCCXIV, April 25, 1985, p. 685.
The New York Times Book Review. XC, January 27, 1985, p. 13.
The New Yorker. LXI, February 25, 1985, p. 104.
Newsweek. CV, March 11, 1985, p. 75.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXVI, December 14, 1984, p. 44.
Time. CXXV, January 7, 1985, p. 91.
The Wall Street Journal. CCV, May 3, 1985, p. 21.
(The entire section is 55 words.)