M.G. Lord has a great piece in today’s NY Times on “Heinlein’s Female Troubles.” She really manages, as so few critics do, to hit the core elements of his complexity. Heinlein was in some ways, for his time, a terrifically progressive, even feminist, writer and thinker. But at the same time, his competent, intelligent, female characters (even the Empress of 20 Universes) enjoy being treated as naughty children by stronger, more competent, men.
Heinlein’s body of work as a whole, throughout his career and including the juveniles and the flimsy, solipsistic mishmash in which he so often indulged at the end, give some psychological insight into a complex man, a complex American, from a complex time in American culture and history. The celebration of competence and masculine and ability…the nostalgic longing for small-town life…the idealization of mothers, daughters, and sisters (to the point of complicated and literally or figuratively incestuous scenarios)…the firm libertarianism and the sexual libertinism…it all adds up to a complicated novelist–and thus a damn good one, even at his worst.
It’s rare (and valuable) to see such an intelligent and accurate analysis of Heinlein (or any SF author of his era) in the NY Times. Nice work, Ms. Lord!