In Joy Still Felt Critical Essays

Isaac Asimov


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Although the quantity of Asimov’s writing is perhaps unequaled in the modern annals of American literary production, all of his work is considered to be of outstanding quality and has been consistently greeted with popular and critical acclaim. His writings range from the science-fiction pieces with which he established his international following to college-level medical textbooks, scientific monographs for the general reader, fiction for juveniles, natural and political history, dictionary and encyclopedia articles, limericks, and mystery novels. The so-called Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950’s, ranks as one of the most significant and influential works that defined and legitimized science fiction as a respected and critically accepted form of literary expression in the United States. In the 1970’s, his 1941 short story “Nightfall” was voted the best science-fiction work of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Since In Joy Still Felt is an autobiographical work, it is impossible to separate completely an analysis of the volume as a work of literature from explicit commentary about the life of the author that is portrayed within its pages. It must be stated that the true value of this volume lies in the insights and knowledge which it imparts about Asimov the man, not in the book’s inherent literary achievement. The style, strength of writing, and organization of this volume clearly do not rank with those of any classic autobiographies of established literary merit.

In Joy Still Felt fails to compare favorably with the careful literary craftsmanship exhibited in much of Asimov’s other writing. Instead, a significant amount of the almost eight-hundred-page narrative is concerned with relating, in an apparent stream-of-consciousness, chronological fashion, mundane and commonplace events of Asimov’s life—among which are interspersed the milestones of his literary and personal accomplishments. One suspects that Asimov’s method of writing this volume was to take his diary and journal entries and loosely rework them into the chapters and subchapters of the book. His language is concise and pleasing to read, and the volume is articulately written, with humor and human...

(The entire section is 924 words.)