Sun
Jun 14 2009 11:39am

The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein’s Friday

On a miserably wet Saturday morning in 1982, when I was young and desolate, I went into the library, as I always did, without very much hope. As I reached the New Books section there, entirely unexpectedly, was Friday, a new Heinlein book. It was not just as if the sun had come out, it was as if the sun had come out and it was an F-type star and I was suddenly on a much nicer planet.

Friday is one of Heinlein’s “late period” novels. The general rule if you haven’t read any Heinlein is to start with anything less than an inch thick. But of his later books, I’ve always been fond of Friday. It’s the first person story of Friday Jones, courier and secret agent. She’s a clone (in the terms of her world an “artificial person”) who was brought up in a creche and who is passing as human. It’s a book about passing, about what makes you human. I think it was the first female out-and-out action hero that I read. It’s also a book about being good at some things but with a large hole in your confidence underneath. No wonder I lapped it up when I was seventeen!

What’s good about it now? The whole “passing” bit. The cloning, the attitudes to cloning, the worry about jobs. The economy. It has an interesting future world, with lots of colonized planets, but most of the action taking place on Earth—that’s surprisingly unusual. There’s a Balkanized US and a very Balkanized world come to that, but with huge multinational corporations who have assassination “wars” and civil wars. There’s a proto-net, with search paths, that doesn’t have any junk in it—that’s always the failure mode of imagining the net. It was easy enough to figure out you could sit at home and connect to the Library of Congress, but harder to imagine Wikipedia editing wars and all the baroque weirdness that is the web. Friday’s point of view works for me as someone with severely shaken confidence, and as always with Heinlein it’s immersive. Reading this now I can feel myself sinking right in to Friday without any problem. There’s a complex multi-adult family, not unusual in late Heinlein, but this one disintegrates in a messy divorce, which is unusual and well done as well. And it’s a fun read, even if it’s ultimately unsatisfying.

What’s wrong with it is that it doesn’t have a plot.

Even at seventeen I couldn’t love it uncritically. I can’t think of any book for which I have expended more energy trying to fix the end in my head. It’s practically a hobby. For years I would tell myself I’d re-read it and just stop when the good bit stops and skip the end—though I have to say I’ve never managed it. Heinlein’s ability to write a sentence that makes you want to read the next sentence remains unparalleled. But the book as a whole is almost like Dhalgren. Every sentence and every paragraph and page and chapter lead on to the next, but it’s just one thing after another, there’s no real connection going on. It has no plot, it’s a set of incidents that look as if they’re going somewhere and don’t ever resolve, just stop. It doesn’t work as an emotional plot about Friday growing up, though it’s closer to working as that than as anything else. (Even as that—well, I really have problems with the way she forgives the rapist, if that’s supposed to be maturity.)  It really doesn’t work on any of the other levels you can look at it on.

Heinlein wrote about how he wrote in several places—Expanded Universe and some letters in Grumbles From the Grave. From this it’s quite clear that he worked hard on the background and the characters but that he let his backbrain do the plotting. There are comments like “There were Martians in The Door Into Summer for a few pages until I realised they didn’t belong so I took them out.” (Paraphrased from memory.) As he got older, it’s clear that he lost some grip on that ability to tell what didn’t belong. Friday is an example where you can see this in action. It sets things up that it never invokes, most notably Olympia and the connections back to the novella “Gulf.” It starts hares both in the human plot and the wider plot, and loses track of them. You can see how he did it, and you can imagine how he would have pulled it together, and what he might have gone back and fixed.

Even as it is, I love it for its moments of clarity and beauty. I wouldn’t be without it. I taught myself almost all I know about how to plot by lying awake trying to fix the end of Friday in my head.

65 comments
Josh Rose
1. Cosmosis
I have not read Friday, but read - and loved - Job: A Comedy of Justice when I was in high school. For similar reasons I have been wanting to re-read it recently (almost twenty years have passed since I last read it), but I am worried that it won't hold up. Anyone read it recently and have thoughts on it?
Nader Elhefnawy
2. Nader Elhefnawy
Agreed about Friday. It tends to be overlooked as one of his late novels. (The last time I checked, there were just two academic articles about the book-a lot less than, for instance, is the case with Starship Troopers-and I wrote one of them.)

But the book definitely has those points of interest-the clone issues, the "proto-cyberpunk" economic-tech stuff, etc.. And I think that rather a lot more people than is generally appreciated do look back to it-and try to "fix" it or at least redo it in some way. Charles Stross's recent Saturn's Children (which I haven't got to yet) has been received by a lot of critics as a Friday homage.

On a more personal note, I've got an (alas, unpublished) novel of my own that partly grew out of working with the same plot elements.
Clark Myers
3. ClarkEMyers
I'd have used clone to mean genetic duplicate. There is no genetic duplicate for Friday - nor does her child carry any of her own genetic information. See e.g. U.N. Man by Poul Anderson for genetic duplicate and some implications.

nat ward
4. smonkey
I must agree that Friday one of my fave Heinleins.

But then I have to point out that a good portion of that affection comes from reading it when I was seventeen and didn't care that had no plot and was written by a pervy old man who felt all strong women really wanted children and to be raped and saved by strapping young pilots.

Yech.

But I love the fact he refers to "Hubbardites", heh....but he was wrong...now we call 'em Scientologists.
j p
5. sps49
So it wasn't just me.

I found the novels I read as new seemed to just peter out without having any point to them- Friday, The Number of the Beast, The Cat who Walks Through Walls- or just meander the entire length (Time Enough for Love, etc.)

Friday began with a bang, and yes, brought up a lot of cool ideas and plotlines- and then everything was just dropped.

I need to find Gulf somewhere and read it.
Jo Walton
6. bluejo
sps49: "Gulf" is in Assignment in Eternity. It's the first story in it and therefore the first Heinlein I read, as he's one of the authors I read from the library in alphabetical order.
Nader Elhefnawy
7. Neil in Chicago
Another of Friday's important virtues is that background. What if there were a real breakthrough in batteries/energy storage?
Avram Grumer
8. avram
Smonkey @4, Heinlein wasn't "wrong"; the Church of Scientology has been called that since the early '50s. And Heinlein would have known that, since he and Hubbard were old friends, or at least associates.
Christopher Davis
9. ckd
Neil in Chicago (#7): Poul Anderson's "Snowball" (1955) takes on that question, and was a likely inspiration for that part of Friday.

There's also Randall Garrett's "Damned If You Don't" (which Vernor Vinge paid homage to in "Bookworm, Run!"), though that's more of a breakthrough in generation instead of storage.
Nader Elhefnawy
10. randwolf
I think, in a certain odd way, Friday is a love letter to humanity and the United States. I am thinking about the very specific rejection of "genius separatism" that Baldwin undertakes, and about the genuine affection Heinlein has for some of his "salt of the Earth" characters. (Forgive me, it's been a while since I read this.) Less obviously, I think the story is about being an intellectual in a profoundly anti-intellectual society, to wit the United States. You can be smarter, and even faster and stronger, and still not be able to make it there, or make it work.
Nader Elhefnawy
11. Marcus Row;and
It's still an interesting read, although I agree that the plot is not exactly the focus of the story. And it's the main inspiration for one of this year's Hugo nominees for best novel, Saturn's Children by Charles Stross.
Liza .
12. aedifica
Regarding various comments about the ending and Heinlein's endings in general: Even before I started to have problems with Heinlein's characterizations of women, I noticed he couldn't seem to write an ending worth a damn. (I just kept reading them anyway.) It's true I haven't read many of the juveniles, but of the ones I have read, it always seems to be storystorystorystory inconclusive ending. I was going to list some examples, but I can't think of any book of his more than an inch thick that doesn't fit that description. (Thanks, Jo, for the "one-inch" dividing line for Heinlein's work!)
Jo Walton
13. bluejo
Aedifica: But if you look at something like Citizen of the Galaxy or Time For The Stars or Starman Jones it looks like episode after episode but when you get to the end, it fits perfectly and reconnects everything that was going along thematically all along, and in retrospect you can see that each episode was illustrating a different aspect of the theme. Let me explain... no, let me sum up... no, let me do a whole post and show you in detail. Hang on.
Liza .
14. aedifica
Jo @ 13: ooh. A whole post just for me? *grin*

I've been thinking it was past time to re-read Citizen, since I can barely remember it. As for the other two, I'm not even certain whether I've ever read them--I may have, but if so it would have been very long ago. But that will wait a bit: if I read any Heinlein this week, it will be The Rolling Stones or The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for their family structures, preparatory to one of the 4th Street panels. (My reading this week is very focused!)
Nader Elhefnawy
15. hobbitbabe
I felt similarly about discovering [i]Friday[i] (1982) - and Number of the Beast (1980) - as a teenager I'd read all the Heinlein I could find and bought a bunch, despite my mother's disapproval of spending money on books that might be in a library, but I thought of it all as old stuff. Then suddenly there was a new one in the window of the university bookstore, and then another! I didn't get as far as you did at working out why the endings weren't as good as the made-up worlds and people, but I read them both enough times to break the spines while trying. I just told my classmates that except for Double Star and possibly Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein wrote good books but couldn't write endings.
Nader Elhefnawy
16. hobbitbabe
Repeating my earlier post to correct the italics,

I felt similarly about discovering Friday (1982) - and Number of the Beast (1980) - as a teenager I'd read all the Heinlein I could find and bought a bunch, despite my mother's disapproval of spending money on books that might be in a library, but I thought of it all as old stuff. Then suddenly there was a new one in the window of the university bookstore, and then another! I didn't get as far as you did at working out why the endings weren't as good as the made-up worlds and people, but I read them both enough times to break the spines while trying. I just told my classmates that except for Double Star and possibly Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein wrote good books but couldn't write endings.
Stephen W
17. Xelgaex
I recently read Double Star and thought it had a pretty good ending. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land are the only other Heinlein I've read so far (though I've currently got Starship Troopers in my to-be-read pile) and I don't remember being unsatisfied with the endings in either of those, but maybe I should re-read them with an eye out for it. (I should probably re-read them anyway.)
Charlie Stross
18. cstross
Nader @2 and Marcus @11 called it right -- I did indeed use Friday as a reference point for Saturn's Children.

I'm not sure I agree with Jo about Friday's lack of plot, though. Heinlein was of the opinion that there were only about three basic plots in fiction ("Boy Meets Girl", "The Brave Little Tailor", "The Man Who Learned Better"), and I tend to see Friday as an attempt to do "The Man Who Learned Better" (one that ran off the rails due to the author's declining ability to keep eight flaming cocktail glasses in the air simultaneously while juggling). And Farah Mendlesohn has opined that Friday is an attempt at portraying a child abuse survivor; plausible, but not obvious because that sort of thing just wasn't talked about in public back in the early 1980s.

If you put it all together: here's someone who's been badly damaged in early life, and this is the story of their attempt to rebuild and get back to normal. (Except that it doesn't quite work in the end; the attempt at delivering a sense of closure is botched.)
Nader Elhefnawy
19. Will Collier
I recall a very apt snippet from a review of one of the "late period" Heinlein novels (might well have been "Friday"), I want to say from F&SF. Paraphrasing here, it went: 'After a while, you realize that Heinlein is writing about what Heinlein thought was interesting that day, which is entertaining if you are fond of him. I am fond of him.'
Jo Walton
20. bluejo
Will: I am fond of him too.

Charlie: I didn't know there was any controversy about her being an abuse survivor. The abuse is right there on the page, she just doesn't understand why it was a problem. That's one of the things that makes it good. On the plot generally, yes, Heinlein was very good at stories about people growing up. But if this was supposed to be that it went badly wrong, because she doesn't. She still has all her false confidence and rationalisations at the end.
Nader Elhefnawy
21. HelenS
"And Farah Mendlesohn has opined that Friday is an attempt at portraying a child abuse survivor; plausible, but not obvious because that sort of thing just wasn't talked about in public back in the early 1980s."

It wasn't? I thought it was all over the place by then. In fact I remember numerous books about it in the 1970s, and articles about Freud pointing out that he was told of sexual abuse by patients and ended up not believing them, dismissing their stories as incest fantasies, etc. But maybe my memories are misdated by a few years ... it's happened before.
Nader Elhefnawy
22. Brian2
Jo, for some reason this particular review, and discussion, made me reflect on what a pleasure your reviews have been. I've just started The Backroom Boys, and am very happy you recommended it.

As for Friday, I confess that when it came out I was mainly pleased that it wasn't one of the thicker-than-an-inch books, thought it meandered a bit, and hardly read it at all, since I didn't think the character was really going to be developed. The book lost me very early on with her dismissal of abuse, which struck me then as Heinlein taking his can-do attitude more than a little too far.

But it sounds much more interesting in light of the current discussion. If Heinlein is showing one of his can-do protagonists as wounded and somewhat dissociated, that's pretty intriguing stuff, however it emerged in the writing. And, looking at it that way, Friday's remark that an "ordinary" woman would have been completely traumatized by what she'd just been through (if I remember it correctly) now seems horribly sad.
Nader Elhefnawy
23. Bill Reich
The idea that Heinlein ever advocated that "every woman wants to be raped" is insane and indefensible.

Friday didn't want to be raped. However, she was, besides being an artificial person and not typical of all _anybody_ a covert agent, inured to the idea that someone might kill her without any personal animosity. Some people never get over their outrage over that concept. On the other hand, some people do adapt and accept. The ones who adapt and accept probably survive better.

The step from "these people are going to try to kill me but it has little or no emotional significance" to the same sentence with "rape" substituted for "kill" would seem large but not impossibly so.
Clark Myers
24. ClarkEMyers
#19 - true enough. Extending that notion the normal pattern for many of Mr. Heinlein's books

(The Heretic/Stranger in a Strange Land is an obvious exception - not the only one - but as an exception that illustrates the rule that book was worked hard while being worked then put completely aside more or less)

was to write that day what interested him that day but by the end of the month to wrap it all up so the book had some unity being what interested him that month - followed of course by cutting and working the galleys and such but still a month from start to finish as in Glory Road which goes around then comes around.

#10 - I'll certainly pay the Oscar Wilde style compliment but I'll at least think the credit. I think there is indeed an ode to the endless variety of the United States as was in the travel log.

I think too - though in black and white it comes across as stronger than I think the reality is - there is an element of the author's voice to his spiritual children in Kettle Belly's hampered by being in jail (writing juveniles and staying solvent) apology to Friday - She doesn't grow up - which would embrace being at home anyplace she found herself but she does find a place for her in the world.
j p
25. sps49
@23 et.al.-

I took her reaction to her past as a symptom of her self-image as not human; like it was okay if "real" people treated her this way.

Yes, she seems to be okay after her epiphany (someone equates for her that reproductive compatibility w/ humans = human), so on that level it's okay, but that isn't the story Friday began as.
Chuk Goodin
26. Chuk
@14; I just re-read Citizen a month or two ago because I'd come to it straight off the juveniles when I was about 8 or 9 years old and almost didn't finish it, certainly didn't remember it. On the re-read, it was much more enjoyable but seems to end quite abruptly, as if it were the first book in an uncontinued trilogy.
Clark Myers
27. ClarkEMyers
#26 - if you haven't just/already read Jo Walton on Citizen you might enjoy that discussion - especially her comment #22 in that thread: http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=2128
Nader Elhefnawy
28. David Silver
Nice subject and comments, Jo. But you and others are incorrect about Friday not having a plot. It's not so simply a plot most of us take some time to recognize: It's a rewrite of Jean Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire's masterpiece, Candide. There are other old literary influences reflected in Friday (e.g., DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, itself, from whence comes Woman Friday's name among other things) but so far as plot is concerned, Candide is pretty much it: " ... but we must cultivate our gardens."
Nader Elhefnawy
29. Zeb Carter
Most of Heinlein's later works do end in a rather abrupt fashion. I'm just finishing up "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls" now, and more has happened in the last 50 pages than in the whole book. I think that's just a characteristic of Heinlein's works. I got through "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" just before this and its the same way. The whole revolution takes place in the last 10% of the book. I think that's because, for Heinlein, the process of getting there is more important than the end.

re: #23 - I had always taken Friday's attitude towards her rape as a measure of her own low self-esteem. Only a person with a terribly low self image could approach her rape in that fashion and I'm pretty sure that was Heinlein's way of showing just how low that self image was. Part of the book is Friday's attempt to find herself in a world that didn't want her. It was an idea that appealed to me as a young man and I can't help but think it would appeal to all young people trying to "find themselves."

Finally, I love the spoofing of California politics in Friday. I can't help thinking Heinlein had a crystal ball. Look at California now with a movie-star governor, a legislature completely controlled by special interests, legislation passed only by initiative, and trying to take lottery money from the schools to fund our deficit. Heinlein had an amazing ability to extrapolate future political/cultural climates based on the trends of his time.
Dru O'Higgins
30. bellman
Rape used as a tactic to break down a secret agent, male or female - sure, I'll buy that.

Said secret agent taught to deal with the rape - I'll buy that, in fiction. Would have been nice if there had been some nod towards after action counselling or therapy.

I remember being disappointed in the ending but wanting more books set in this fictional universe. One of the things I enjoyed most was the richness of the world-building compared to other Heinlein's.

Oh, and forgiving said rapist? REALLY not buying that.
Clark Myers
31. ClarkEMyers
#28 - unusual take on the man's name? - and although the comparison is old and a lineage can be shown - might drag in Cabell pronounced to rhyme with rabble one more time see. e.g. Job - Candide doesn't have a plot either (any more than anybody comes of age or indeed learns much - and the world in Candide is not built but deconstructed e.g. number of quarterings is not an incluing but a jape). Although the bits about killing admirals and the Lisbon earthquake do illustrate a writer dealing with whatever comes to mind that day. I suggest Candide could almost be dropped in unbound proof and reassembled with no one the wiser save perhaps the very beginning and end and even then maybe.

I think the world of Friday is particularly internally fragile that is full of fracture lines fracturing (arguably simply in flux but by that view very ephemeral indeed in line with the events of the book) - defects obscured by an unreliable - by force not intent - narrator. From this it follows that extended reuse of the many settings that make up the worlds would take constant retconning - alternatively it would be pre and post this or that change and so not the same worlds..

And I obviously disagree to the extent that I take the message - and I do think Mr. Heinlein sold his story for a pot of message - to be we must put our garden and our own sheep beyond sight and scent of our neighbor's chimney smoke - can't simply can't stay on or return to the old man's farm.
Nader Elhefnawy
32. nlowery71
I just love your posts! I was thinking about this book yesterday, about how awful it was and my largely uncritical affection for it. I read Heinlein backwards when I was a teenager: later novels first, juveniles after. It gave me a somewhat warped view of his writing. His later endings are entirely frustrating, but I just can't help liking the books anyway. (Do you think this generation of teens will feel that way about Twilight?)
Jo Walton
33. bluejo
Nlowery71: Twilight and Harry Potter seem to me more in the way of cultural phenomenon than books, the whole generation, or so it seems, is reading them. I didn't know anyone else my age who was reading Heinlein when I was growing up. But I bet some of them will feel like that. I'm looking forward to when their kids mock them for having been into *vampires* of all pathetic things.

Clark: Thanks for saying exactly what I would have said about Candide. I actually read it the same year I read Friday and I liked Friday so much better.
Nader Elhefnawy
34. Zeb Carter
As you correctly point out, David (#28), Friday does have a plot. (One that Heinlein “filed the serial numbers off” of before using.) However, just labeling it as “Candide” deflects the criticism but doesn’t negate it entirely. The question is not “Does Friday have a plot?” but, “Is the plot one that resonates with a modern reader?” I think that Heinlein, in reviving the plot of Candide was also trying to revive an older narrative aesthetic; that of the picaresque novel and other forms popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. This type of narrative was eventually replaced by the more organic aesthetic – one that we are more used to today - that emerged in the early 19th century.

By the way, its “We must cultivate our garden.” (singular)
Nader Elhefnawy
35. David Silver
Zeb: Not so by the way, it depends on what edition first comes to hand. Compare, Norton Critical (both 1st and 2d editions) translated and edited by my old UCLA humanities professor Robert M. Adams (singular) and Modern Library 2002 facsimile of the Random House 1929 Rockwell Kent illustrated edition (plural).

Which modern reader? Of what? Which organic aesthetic that emerged in the early 19th century that I'm more used to? I'm serious.

Gothic fiction emerged and became very popular at the beginning of the century. Some of it is pretty grotesque; and it's still being written and not only by Anne Rice. Should Heinlein have written more "They"s and "Hoag"s?

Both realism and exploration of the individual self began to rear their heads in the beginning of the 19th century. Heinlein, before political correctness, had little good to say about some of it.

"A very large part of what is accepted as 'serious' literature today represents nothing more than a cultural lag on the part of many authors, editors and critics–a retreat to the womb in the face of a world too complicated and too frightening for their immature spirits. A sick literature. What do we find so often today? Autobiographical novels centered around neurotics, even around sex maniacs, concerning the degraded, the psychotic, or the 'po’ white trash' of back-country farms portrayed as morons or worse, novels about the advertising industry or some other equally narrow area of human experience such as the personal life of a television idol or the experiences of a Park Avenue call girl.

"Ah, but this is 'realism'! Some of it is, some of it decidedly is not. In any case, is it not odd that the ash-can school of realism, as exemplified by Henry Miller, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Joyce, Françoise Sagan and Alberto Moravia, should be held up to us as 'high art' at the very time when all other forms of art are striving to achieve more significant and more interesting forms of expression? Can James Joyce and Henry Miller and their literary sons and grandsons interpret the seething new world of atomic power and antibiotics and interplanetary travel? I say not. In my opinion a very large portion of what is now being offered the public as serious, contemporary-scene fiction is stuff that should not be printed, but told only privately – on a psychiatrist’s couch. The world, the human race, is now faced with very real and pressing problems. They will not be solved by introverted neurotics intent on telling, in a tedious hundred thousand words, they hate their fathers and love their mothers.

"In any case, I, for one, am heartily sick of stories about frustrates, jerks, homosexuals and commuters who are unhappy with their wives – for goodness sake! Let them find other wives, other jobs – and shut up!

"True, some of this sick literature does shine some light into dark corners of the human soul. Even a sordid, narrow novel such as James Jones’ From Here to Eternity can some-times manage that. But is this enough? Does it meet the challenge of our century? At best such a novel shows only one frame of a complex and rapidly moving picture."
-- Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues
By Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein in his later works seemed to seek out forms other than the early or mid-19th century novel. Friday is picaresque; Time Enough for Love is an anatomy as Northrup Frye styled that type; The Cat Who Walked through Walls is a comedy of manners as the title itself tells us; both Job:ACOJ and Stranger are satires.

How long must a writer grind out bildungsroman, another form which became popular in the 19th century? Weren't the eleven or twelve juveniles, depending on which ones you count, enough?

Heinlein preferred to write works of character development, and that can be done with miniscule plots. How long does it take to develop a woman-who-learned-better? After she learns to cultivate her garden(s) what else is there to write?

No one's required to buy into the message common to both Voltaire and Heinlein's works under discussion, a rational acquiescence in the conditions of present life and an acceptance of its obligations. Take it or not.

When Friday's finished running the PTA and the Girl Scout troop on New Toowoomba, she'll be back to the fast track if she so wishes.
Nader Elhefnawy
36. Bill Reich
About "forgiving the rapist":

I have been a soldier in combat and observed soldiers in combat. Animosity toward your opponents is common enough but unproductive. People who achieve detachment live longer and fight more efficiently, in most cases. Battle rage and "They killed Kenny" are, in my opinion, hogwash, especially since throwing hands or fighting with swords is not involved.

I never felt any anger or hatred and don't think I would have felt anything but pain had I been shot.

I don't think regarding that rape as the hazard of the job and not taking it personally is a _huge_ step from there.

I can't help thinking of the first part of the first Jo Walton book I read as I think of this.
j p
37. sps49
Silver- My opinion is that Heinlein's later works are not as good as his others. This is not because I am not educated enough.

Your post reminds me of apologists and associated creative participants on IMDB who tell us how Brown Bunny isn't crap, it is just too nuanced for me to understand.
Clark Myers
38. ClarkEMyers
On forgiving I'll give Corrie Ten Boom the last word.

James Clavell (see e.g. King Rat not the China Miéville of the same name) expressed the same sentiments but for Clavell it took some years to make his decision; for others it takes forever.

On the subject of animosity toward your opponents my own experience and observation is that it varies with and over time (perhaps with age and relative maturity? see e.g. West Side Story) - but again see Corrie Ten Boom quoting her sister on pitying the abuser as much as the victim.

On the "hey killed Kenny" issue I am reminded of "they killed Lattie Tipton" - "(referred to as "Brandon" in Murphy's book To Hell and Back)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy - as of current date. Different strokes for different folks.

The fact of rage be it hot or be it cold is amply documented. For some a medal for some a quick death for some both.
Clark Myers
39. ClarkEMyers
Not at all by the way the primary sources on Candide are a trifle hard to even define as an effort was made to get the original out in many editions and many places as nearly simultaneously as the technology of the time permitted. There is IIRC only one prepublication amended (maybe should read corrected I'm not sure?) copy and a multitude of competing first editions.

#35 - I suggest there is a tremendously strong parallel in the quote from Mr. Heinlein to John Wayne and movie westerns.

As you know Bob, John Wayne had a very low opinion of "western" movies such as High Noon and High Plains Drifter (flat rebuffed Clint Eastwood ever after see e.g. Roger Ebert's current blog) - as westerns. John Wayne/Ford made some "a man and his friends" westerns in direct deliberate response to the solo acts.

It seems to me Wayne was precisely correct in taking High Noon as absurd considered as a "true" tale of the old west. That is The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid which was (more or less) historical (or the opening of The Wild Bunch if you prefer straight fiction) was the usual result when any group tried to tree a town.

That High Noon really is absurd taken as a true tale of the old west says nothing about High Noon (or any of its remakes be they in the mythical west or the mythical future in space) as a good movie on its own terms.

But as Mr. Wayne thought about the purity of his beloved westerns so too I think Mr. Heinlein thought about the purity of his beloved genre and its depiction of his beloved country.

I suggest Mr. Heinlein's views - as excerpted above - expressed a deep emotional committment to the United States and its future .

Given that emotional attachment then a portrait warts and all is appropriate but adding extra warts to express some spiritual truth (see e.g. the Ward Churchill controversy) is intolerable.

"Does it meet the challenge of our century? At best such a novel shows only one frame of a complex and rapidly moving picture."

I suppose Mr. Heinlein sought to "meet the challenge of our century" to show many "frame[s] of a complex and rapidly moving picture" And furthermore did it brilliantly.

"How long must a writer grind out bildungsroman, another form which became popular in the 19th century? Weren't the eleven or twelve juveniles, depending on which ones you count, enough?"

Of course they weren't enough or folks would not have been offering for sale works from or based on the archives. Given sales I don't see anybody boycotting, banning or burning any of Mr. Heinlein's books of whatever date - or otherwise saying must to anybody.

Just the same " ....stories about frustrates, jerks, homosexuals...." such as parts of the Small Change series can add a great deal to both pleasure and thought.
Nader Elhefnawy
40. Zeb Carter
Note: I thought I had posted this earlier, but don't see here it now. If this turns out to be a double post, I apologize.

David - If one is going to quote Jean Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire, one should return to the original French. You were in safer hands with your UCLA humanities professor who probably spoke some French. In the famous line at the end of Candide "Il faut cultiver notre jardin," (Literally, "It is necessary to cultivate our garden."), the possessive adjective "notre" is used to modify the noun “jardin.” “Notre” is the first person plural possessive, however it is in the form used to modify a singular noun. ("Nos" being used for a plural noun.) Therefore, the line should most properly translated as "We must cultivate our garden." I think the singular form is particularly appropriate to Friday as I don't think she'll be leaving “the PTA and the Girl Scout troop on New Toowoomba" anytime soon. She has found her niche, her garden.

(Clark - If you can find an edition using "nos," I'd like to see it.)

As for the organic aesthetic I refer to . . . First of all, let me clarify that in using the pronoun "we," I was not referring to you or I, who might be more open to unusual narratives, but a generic contemporary reader. (Seriously, David. Would you consider yourself a typical "modern" reader?)

The concept of organic unity in literature dates back to Aristotle, but experienced a resurgence in Romantic literature of the 19th century. The idea is that the narrative grows from a principal theme that is constantly developed throughout the work. Thus, the work maintains a continuous flow from beginning to end. The theme is a seed out of which the rest of the works grows and yet still reflects the seed.

In general, conforming to a genre is inimical to organic unity as that may stifle or distort the creative flow of the work as it grows. The genre of the picaresque novel, as applied in the 17th and 18th centuries and used by Voltaire in Candide, presented a series of narratives which theoretically could be re-ordered without affecting the flow of the work. Or, as ClarkEMyers rather crudely put it: "Candide could almost be dropped in unbound proof and reassembled with no one the wiser save perhaps the very beginning and end and even then maybe."

Heinlein, in following this genre, made Friday less accessible to contemporary readers. I'm not criticizing him for that. I like the book. The depth of the works in his post-juvenile periods is profound. However, I understand that the modern reader is unwilling to accept such a format. They would rather have a narrative unified by a common thread that pulls them through their reading. That many people find Friday "plotless" is evidenced by the comments above.

Regarding your extensive Heinlein quote, I’m not sure how it addresses my comments. But, there is a certain circular logic to quoting Heinlein in order to mount a defense of his own style. I think RAH would have appreciated it.
Nader Elhefnawy
41. Evan Hunt
I reread _Friday_ a few years ago after a lapse of many years and discovered something I had never noticed when I read it as a teenager, and few people ever seem to mention in discussion of it: It's funny.

I live in Santa Cruz, a few miles away from where Heinlein was living when he wrote the book, and the whole section taking place in California is full of sly political references that had me laughing out loud, from the insane direct-democracy of the Bear Republic to the mention of Pajaro Dunes as a major oil-producing port.

Pity it's such a flawed book in so many other ways though.
Nader Elhefnawy
42. RobPreece
Yep, Friday is bad Heinlein. Not as bad as Job. Not as bad as the Number of the Beast. But almost worse because there are the bones and muscle of a real story here--wich Heinlein never managed to put together.

I don't like Heinlein's portrayal of sex roles, but that really isn't the weakness of Friday--the story just doesn't come off as a story.

On the other hand, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress works as story (although I'm not sure it works well as an economics textbook).

Rob Preece
Nader Elhefnawy
43. JohnnyYen
Number of the Beast is near to unreadable. I recall both Friday and Job reading like a return to form after the loggorheic mess that was NOB. Because of that I was maybe too lenient with them when first read but even now I like them both. They seemed to me reminiscent of his '50s stuff; no doubt the Kettle Belly Baldwin inclusion helped that feeling along.
As to no plot, though - I've noticed lately that a couple of writers I like (James Lee Burke, Lawrence Block) work in a genre, crime/mystery, that is alleged to be dependent on strong plot but with both of them the books are carried along by the writing and characterization.
More and more I think plot is just a reason to move your characters around. No-one cares who killed the chauffeur
John Armstrong
44. JohnnyYen
I left out The Cat Who Walks Through Walls ... that's one that just moseys along, taking in the sites and every once in a while taking a 90 mph turn at right angles to no apparent purpose. Suddenly, there's plot all over the place and it looks like everyone is going to die, even the cat. the End.

Even so, I've read the damn thing three times. The first time I was 29, the last 52. I think I liked it about the same every time. To paraphrase someone quoted above, if you're fond of Heinlein this is close enough that it'll do.
John Adams
45. JohnArkansawyer
I've always said Job was modeled on Candide. Still didn't get my wife to read it.
Clark Myers
46. ClarkEMyers
#45 - Maybe. Although its best known phrasing is applied to graphic art I'd say Job is at (least) a third remove from Candide - Voltaire wrote the real world as he saw it, Cabell wrote the world of imagination as Voltaire saw it and Mr. Heinlein wrote the imaginary as Cabell saw Voltaire seeing it.

Doesn't keep me from liking Job or Friday or almost anything by Mr. Heinlein. I enjoy Number of the Beast from time to time so I must be far enough along some axis away from Neurotypical to fall in some sort of targeted group.

I suppose on story and plot for purposes of this board I tend to use Teresa's famous phrasing as the default.
John Adams
47. JohnArkansawyer
I like 'em all, Clark, even the ones I hate. I suspect I'm just not rational about Heinlein.
Jo Walton
48. bluejo
Clark, John: I also like them all, even the ones I hate, except for To Sail Beyond the Sunset.
Nader Elhefnawy
49. The Promiscuous Reader
Zeb Carter on Heinlein's crystal ball for California politics: remember that by 1982, when Friday was first published, California had already had a "movie-star governor", so this wasn't all that prophetic. As for "special interests," they've always played a major role in US politics. (This reminds me of Chomsky's quip that "special interests" in mainstream discourse refers to women, 'racial' minorities, working people, the elderly -- the vast majority of the American population -- while "the national interest" refers to corporate elites and their apologists.)
John Armstrong
50. JohnnyYen
You ever get the feeling that by the time of Sail Beyond the Sunset Heinlein was basically just having fun playing naughty with his characters? He had a fair streak of dirty old man in him, not that that's a terrible thing. I aim to be one one day.
Nader Elhefnawy
51. Johnny Chimpo
"More and more I think plot is just a reason to move your characters around. No-one cares who killed the chauffeur "

For the record, I completely disagree. I very rarely care about the characters one way or another, and just with the author would get on with telling the damn story. From my viewpoint, the main role of the characters is to be pushed around the plot-board to show the story.

I usually really hate it when the author spends 10 pages telling me about how so-and-so does something because of something that happened in his past. I just want him to do it and get on with the damn story.
Nader Elhefnawy
52. Zeb Carter
I REALLY like Number of the Beast. I really do. Sure I can recognize its faults, but I still like it. I've re-read it several times. Clark, your comment is excellent. I, too, feel like I'm "far enough along some axis away from Neurotypical to fall in some sort of targeted group." Hopefully, we won't be targeted by the men in the white coats.

Promiscuous Reader (#49) - You're right, it is perhaps not quite as prescient as it might seem. Still, I do believe its a very apt projection of California politics. We (Californians) do seem prone to electing "movie-star governors." As for the other, I was thinking more of what Chompsky would call "national interests." I guess I'm not very mainstream.
Nader Elhefnawy
53. Witchseason
I've just finished Friday for the first time in years - decades, maybe - and enjoyed it immensely, having decided to revisit some of RAH's later works. I read Methuselah's Children (as a preface), then TE4L, which I always enjoyed. I struggled a bit through "Number", quite enjoyed "Cat", *loved* "To Sail" and then back to Friday. Wonder if I can bring myself to re-read Job (always hated that one for some reason).

One thing I didn't get about Friday - why did boss tell her to remember Mosby's name, unless he anticipated her getting the 'host mother' assignment? And if he did anticipate that, then he - presumably - anticipated her getting killed? So perhaps not quite the benign father/boss after all. When I neared the end of the book I misremembered the ending & had an idea that Friday was going to *be* the dauphinoise (echoes of 'Double Star'...?)
Liza .
54. aedifica
I'm reading through old entries, found this one, and realized my comments here don't make it at all clear that I do enjoy Friday, just no longer as uncomplicatedly as when I first read it in my teens. It's now firmly in the "guilty pleasure" category for me.
John Adams
55. JohnArkansawyer
An observation I forgot to make at the time: I still find it immensely amusing that Heinlein, mirroring rather than echoing Twain, not only gives us humble and decent Arkansawyers, but also sends Friday up the river toward freedom.
Nader Elhefnawy
56. JohnnyYen
Just reread both NOTB and Job - Number is much as I remembered it, although I found the convention at the end amusing as hell. But my god, the babbling and the endless sequences of computer commands ..... you'd have though he was still being paid by the word.

Job is funnier every time I read it, and the scenes in Heaven are great stuff.
And Friday I always thought of, in terms of plot, as simply - woman has family, loses family, finds another one, likely better - set in RHA's familiar "things will get worse before they get better" future. That, and Heinlein's eternal belief in the frontier and who will set out for it - the best and brightest. The purpose of most folk, RAH seemed to believe, is to make civilization so unbearable that the best breeding stock light out for the territories and spread our seed further and further

Also, no Longs/Howards involved, which was nice for a change
Nader Elhefnawy
57. Aurora
Love Friday. As I've said before, teenage girls should not read Heinlien as it gives them ideas. What Friday needed was a sequel.
Nader Elhefnawy
58. Jeff.me
I disagree whole heartedly with the article.

Perhaps if it was entitled: The Goddess Failure, or maybe The How To Book of Destroying a Goddess Through Early Childhood Trauma.

The book was meant to be a memoire, not a plot drive story. This memoire is of a woman who thinks very little of herself. At every juncture, Friday makes the choice of latching onto anyone who will "Love" her.

Her story is told from her own alienated and ignorant prespective. She doesn't 'know' people, because she has never been one, and thus her ignorance and alienation. She is utterly alone in this world, and though she is superior to 'humans' in every way, people, circumstance, her degraded self image, all conspire against her and keep her from every reaching anything near her potential.

The one serious chance at greatness dies with the man resposible for her creation. I'm sorry, but this book was very complete. Right down to the fizzling no where Friday's life gets to. Of course, that's if you consider having a family and basking in thier love - a failure.

Heinleins book Friday is poignant, well written, joyously tragic and tragically insightful.

No plot indeed.
Nader Elhefnawy
59. Chuck Monroe
Having revisited Friday after 30yrs as i was unable to digest it in full @ 17yrs of age i'm amazed at the prophetic techno and political style that Heinlein was able to achieve!! Growing up reading Bradbury,Philip k Dick,Huxley and Asimov( whom Heinlein gives a nod to in Friday) always made me belive that one day i would live in a future with cellphones computers and the net. Without wishing to intrude on the world of visonarys such as Gates,Jobs or Zuckerberg I still want to know where my "FUCKING JETPACK" is??? Maybe it's time to revisit Philip Francis Nowlan.
Nader Elhefnawy
60. Neil Craig
I don't agree that there isn't a plot to Friday, merely that she doesn't know much about it and that it is all hidden behind a veil of conspiracy. I'm sure I haven't figured it all out but the plot is as exciting as any James Bond novel and more realistic and complicated.

Our heroine brings to Earth the information that prevents a coup, organised off planet, working. She engages in combats including saving the life of one of the world's leading politicians & engages in an action that discedits the would be world/universe conqueror that leads directly to his assassination.

The other thing I love about the book is that, with the exception of interstellar travel, the real world has moved towards that future far more than with any other complex story I know.
Nader Elhefnawy
61. D.A. Madigan
I love FRIDAY, too. I'll admit, I largely love it because it came along at the right time; after NUMBER OF THE BEAST I was ready to just give up on him entirely. FRIDAY and JOB gave me new hope. Unfortunately, they were the last good books he had in him... but, still, FRIDAY made me love Heinlein's work again, and that was no small gift at that time in my life.

There are a few things about FRIDAY that I absolutely cannot accept, and the 'rape is fun when it's done properly' subtext that keeps recurring is probably number one with a bullet on that list... but Heinlein always displayed all the weird lizards living in his head when he talked about sex, and FRIDAY is such a good adventure story otherwise that I just kind of have to chalk that off to her being a kinky slut who likes it rough and tell myself not to judge her.

As to the book having no plot, well, Heinlein's plotting became much more naturalistic as he advanced in age, and in nature -- or 'real life' -- there's not a great deal of structure. I find this maddening in his World As Myth books, but charming in FRIDAY and JOB. I suspect the differences between the three World As Myth books, which I absolutely abhor, and the duology that is FRIDAY and JOB, are largely comprised of (a) FRIDAY and JOB feature characters I like, and (b) The World As Myth so offensively embodies utterly lazy writing (it's okay! it doesn't need to make sense -- it's JUST A STORY!) that it just aggravates me to the point where, even if there WERE likable characters in any of those stories (and there aren't) I'd still find them annoying.

Also, ridiculously plotted and contrived though it is, I love GULF, so that was a big help to me in enjoying FRIDAY, as well.
Nader Elhefnawy
62. Melissa Maye
My problem with many of Heinlein's books is he seems to have started out writing one book, and somewhere about halfway through it transmogrofies into another. Particularly "The Number of the Beast" and "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls." He set them up going in one direction and suddenly we're back dealing with Lazarus Long again.
"Job" was a fun read, but I haven't looked at it in a couple of years. Heinlein's Balkanized U.S. in Friday is surprisingly in touch with what seems to be happening politically now.
John Armstrong
63. JohnArmstrong
Have just reread this yet again and I can't find much fault with it, other than that of style. If you don't like the stylistic tics RAH developed as a writer (early on until the end), your enjpyment will be greatly impaired. As with anyone you love, their quirks are forgiven or at worst looked past. (And for things like IWFNE and TNOTB, when you can't forgive them, you conclude that crotchety old Uncle Robert has lost it and needs to be in a nice, quiet place with friendly nurses.)

I agree with the notion Friday is Candide goen through RAH's chop shop, witha new coat of paint and the VIN filed down. Seems to me plenty of plot but not of the game board type, eg Start here and clear goal to be attained, like cribbage or Monopoly.
Heinlein rarely started with more than an idea and sometimes an ending, subject to change dependent on what happened along the way. It worked better some times than others, is all. For me, it worked fine here.

No one has mentioned the Public eye and references to govt/authority surveillance. That was prescient, too.

Teh thing that has always really bugged me about htis, is Friday being depicted as a Raquel Welch-ish white woman on the cover when the book makes clear she is dark complected.

Marketing trumps the author's intent every time
Nader Elhefnawy
64. RAH Fan
I attempted to read this string but found i had to skim. Did any of you take into account Friday was first published in serial form in the pages of Playboy Magazine? Perhaps more than any of his works it did include encapsilations of moments to fit the way of presentation. Pehaps even "looked good in the moment" was the point as well as deadline requirements. Several authors published works in Playboy at the time.
Nader Elhefnawy
65. Jon99
#28: David: Thank you for that excellent suggestion--that Friday was based on Voltaire's Candide. I believe you are right and the ending of Friday supports the notion.

"That is well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our garden."

Voltaire writes about the human condition, that there is no absolute right or wrong, and at the core of Friday--the book as well as the character--she questions her humanity again and again.

I don't believe Heinlein was trying to be literary in this sense, or that he was intentionally trying to write an homage, but the theme was on his mind. And, worthy of note--a new edition of CANDIDE was published by Random House in 1975.

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