This post is part of a series on the Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s works.
It’s been almost a year since I reviewed the first volume of the Virgina Edition, I Will Fear No Evil. I didn’t intend for there to be such a long hiatus, but things got in the way. Also, there is the absurdity of having two of Heinlein’s longest novels at the front end of the series, which makes no sense so far as I can tell.
Confusion aside, I liked the story of Time Enough For Love much better. I think I must have read bits of it before, though I don’t recall. Some pieces of it seemed familiar, but it may just be that bits of this book are shared in other of Heinlein’s stories. (I have read – or rather, listened to – To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which is from Maureen Smith’s point of view, and covers at least some of the same ground.) This book is part of Heinlein’s “Future History” series, and the stories do get rather jumbled.
Published in July 1973, Time Enough For Love was Heinlein’s fiction follow-up to I Will Fear No Evil.1 Started on March 13, 1972, Heinlein wrote his novel over the course of 119 days, finishing on July 7 – his 65th birthday.
The core of the story, however, was developed years earlier. Called “Da Capo” – a title that’s retained as the heading of the last 150-page section of the story – the story was originally to be included in a planned five-book series of Future History stories for Shasta Publishers, which published The Man Who Sold the Moon, The Green Hills of Earth and Revolt in 2100. Over time, Heinlein grew disillusioned with the company’s business practices, however, and he refused to commit himself to a contract with Shasta for “Da Capo” because the terms of his previous projects with the publisher had turned out rather unfavorably for him. “Da Capo,” intended to be included in the never-printed fifth volume of the series (to have been titled The Endless Frontier), was thus not published as originally intended. As of 1963, according to a letter to Lurton Blassingame, Heinlein had accumulated “piles of notes” for “Da Capo,” “but it has never quite jelled.”
“Da capo” is an Italian phrase meaning “from the head,” and it’s used as a musical term indicating a return to the beginning of a musical piece. In the early stages of planning his novel, Heinlein knew he wanted it to be something of a capstone on his Future History stories. To do this, he decided to bring Lazarus Long, the oldest human to ever live, back to his own beginning, which was analogous to the time and place of Heinlein’s own beginning in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early 20th century. The working title for the story was Lazarus Long: Being the Memoirs of a Survivor. It was changed to Time Enough For Love during the editing phase.
Given it’s length, it’s worth noting that Heinlein cut out about 100 manuscript pages during his revisions of the book. This was something he did not have the opportunity to do with I Will Fear No Evil, as he was undergoing a severe illness at the time.
Although Heinlein had been on the paperback bestseller lists before, Time Enough For Love was his first time making it to the hardcover list. According to William H. Patterson, Jr., the book was on Seattle and Los Angeles lists within a week, and on the New York Times bestseller list by the end of July 1973. It quickly sold out of the first two printings, though due to a delay in the third printing, it eventually fell off the bestseller list. In the first several weeks after the release of the paperback version in January 1974 (six months earlier than typical), the book earned more than each of his previous novels had earned individually over their full runs to that point.
John Leonard reviewed the book for The New York Times, calling it “a great entertainment.”2 Despite noting that the characters all tend to sound the same (a criticism frequently levied against Heinlein), Leonard states that Heinlein “is a master of beguilement” who “pulls so hard of the dugs of sentiment that disbelief is not merely suspended; it is abolished.” Patterson calls Leonard’s review “curiously ambivalent,” but it seems generally favorable overall.
In the Times’ Book Review several weeks later, fellow science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (of Sturgeon’s Law fame) wrote, “I like [Heinlein’s] new novel less than the celebrated Stranger [in a Strange Land], but love it more.” It was fascinating, Sturgeon said, to watch “the mind of a man whose reach always exceed his grasp but who will never stop reaching” – a description that applies both to Heinlein and Lazarus Long.
Less prestigious reviewers also seemed to view it favorably. Tim Riley wrote that Heinlein “prov[es] himself the true master of proposed reality” and called the book “a literary tour de force.” George Near attributes to Heinlein a “deft sense of timing and suspense” with respect to the novel, and he calls the author “a gifted storyteller and a scientist and philosopher who forces his readers to recognize both the ultimate folly of human behavior and the fact that we are all undeniably human.” Kirkus Reviews declared, “SF’s grand old man still has energy, verve and a genius for making outrageous premises…seem perfectly reasonable.”
Robert W. Tinsley approached the book with misgivings due to its ambitious timeframe; nonetheless, despite being told as a series of flashbacks,3 he wrote that “Heinlein’s skill as a writer makes the flashbacks as real and immediate as the ‘present’ time in the book.” Nonetheless, Tinsley does criticize the two Intermissions filled with Lazarus Long aphorisms as being extraneous, and he acknowledges some confusion about the many different names Long has had over the years.
Today, the book has a solid 4 out of five average rating at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Time Enough For Love. It’s Heinlein at his core, replete with perhaps a tad too much exposition through dialogue, but done in a witty and well-written way for the most part. Heinlein’s stories are idea-driven, and the idea here is not only interesting on its own merit, but Heinlein carries it through a number of iterations using various methods.
Time Enough For Love is the story of Lazarus Long, the oldest human in the galaxy. Introduced in Heinlein’s Future History tales, Long has lived some 23 centuries at the beginning of the novel. Being born in 1916 on Earth as Woodrow Wilson Smith, Long emigrated into space as humanity’s home planet became a Malthusian nightmare, and over the course of his life he took on many names and careers. Now, old and disillusioned, Lazarus is ready to die, having seen and experienced everything he cares to see and experience.
In addition to being the oldest human to ever live, Long is known as the Senior – i.e., the progenitor of nearly all of the various Howard Families, a society of people who have selectively bred (or, more accurately, inbred) over the centuries to reinforce genetic longevity. Due to his nature as a sort of Mitochondrial Adam, Long allows himself to be convinced by the current head of the Howard Families – Chairman Pro Tem Ira Weatheral – to remain alive long enough to tell stories that will, hopefully, impart some wisdom to his descendants.
The odd thing about this frame is that it’s hard to call it a frame. It takes more than 60 pages (about 10% of the book) to set up and get to the first of the stories that Lazarus tells, “The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail.” After that story, there’s almost another 80 pages of framework before we get to “The Tale of the Twins Who Weren’t,” and then another 30 pages, including the first of two intermissions, between that and the last (and longest) of Lazarus’ stories, “The Tale of the Adopted Daughter.” The frame itself is more complex than the stories Lazarus tells, and after the final tale, the frame becomes the story, turning into a time travel jaunt in which a rejuvenated Lazarus returns to the Kansas City of his youth, under the nom de guerre (as it becomes) Ted Bronson. “Da Capo” is told as a mix of standard third-person narrative and a series of letters and a diary written by Lazarus that, presumably, come to his far-future family through the long reaches of time.
Patterson calls the format of Time Enough For Love a “virtuoso turn” for Heinlein, noting comparisons between the novel’s opening and a portion of Caleb Catlum’s America, as well as a section of blank verse “tucked away” in prose form at the beginning of one chapter, a la James Branch Cabell.4 These allusions coupled with the interweaving of an introduction, frame story, backstory, correspondence, two preludes, two interludes, and four codas (the last of which each have musical headings), demonstrate that Time Enough For Love is not merely structurally complex – it may be the most complex of any of Heinlein’s works.
That complexity, it seems, fits well with its status as a satire.
Patterson sees the novel as being an example of Menippean satire, a literary form that Northrop Frye distinguishes from other forms (in particular, the novel) in his “Theory of Genres,” the fourth essay of Anatomy of Criticism. According to Patterson, this status puts Time Enough For Love in the league of such works as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, John Barth’s Giles Goat-Boy and even Heinlein’s own Stranger in a Strange Land.
Frye attributes several features to the Menippean satire (which he dubs “anatomy” after the sense used in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, as a dissection or analysis), including:
- the use of incidental verse
- characters as mouthpieces for the ideas they represent
- evil and folly as diseases of the intellect (vs. society, per the novelist)
- the free play of intellectual fancy
- humorous observation that produces caricature
- dialogue or colloquy in which the dramatic interest is in a conflict of ideas rather than of character
- creative treatment of exhaustive erudition
Frye calls Beotheius’ Consolation of Philosohpy a “pure anatomy,” and offers Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy as an example of a successful melding of the genres of anatomy and novel.
As I stated above, Heinlein’s stories (at least, his non-juveniles, though I’ll get to those in other reviews) do tend to be heavily idea-driven, and as such about half of the criteria Frye lays out is covered by that fact alone. Nearly all of the characters in Time Enough For Love speak intellectually about their positions, although some of them might deny that’s what they are doing, and there are huge swaths of Socractic dialogue in which Lazarus (mainly) lays out his wisdom and knowledge to help others understand, as best as he can make them, where he is coming from. This “exhaustive erudition” that Lazarus provides, through parley and parable, is in a very real sense the core purpose of the book.
The book is also replete with the idea of “evil and folly as diseases of the intellect.” Society isn’t wrong; individuals are wrong. When wrong individuals get into power, they can screw up society, but right-thinking individuals move on, taking their wits with them, passing such wits on to anyone who already has wit enough to accept them. Lazarus demonstrates this not only in his historical tales, but also in the frame story by moving to Boondock on Tertius, and in the final “Da Capo” chapters, when he fails his own lesson and declines to move on for love of his first family.
The only question that remains, then, is what does Time Enough For Love satirize?
The book is not satirizing love so much as the traditions, conventions, and customs of love, in particular the problems people have with realizing it in their short lives. The use of “time” and “love” in the title is not incidental; the eponymous phrase is used three times in the story at key moments of insight:
- “Sheffield [one of Lazarus’ aliases] had decided, centuries back, that the saddest thing about ephemerals was that their little lives rarely held time enough for love.”
- “Work is not an end in itself; there must always be time enough for love.”
- “Although long-life can be a burden, mostly it is a blessing. It gives time enough to learn, time enough to think, time enough not to hurry, time enough for love.”
Every section of this book is about some form of love, and in each case it is purposefully difficult to pin down exactly what form of love is being talked about. Although the overall premise of Lazarus’ tales is to impart his wisdom to the Howard Families archivist, his stories are prompted by questions from the computer Minerva (whose consciousness is later put into a genetically engineered body) about what “love” is. The tales, then, become ways to describe love through Lazarus’ various experiences, such as rescuing a pair of enslaved twins and helping them get established on a new planet, or adopting a young girl who is thrown to him from a burning home and then, much later, marrying her and starting a family despite the fact that she is an “ephemeral” (i.e., non-Howard) with a normal human lifespan.
The satire appears when you realize that in each of these cases, Lazarus does not actually know what love is. Or rather, he does not know how to explain it. He has certainly experienced love, as his tales demonstrate, and he can distinguish between and define (more or less) eros, agape, narcissus, etc. However, when trying to explain love to people who speak a different language (such as his rejuvenation technicians), or who have a different sensory experience (such as Minerva), he is incapable of conveying the experience of love. Each attempt prompts another discussion, another example.
That the oldest human to live, the one with more experience and expertise and wisdom (whatever that may be) than anyone else, cannot explain love becomes the central conceit of the story. Love – that experience central to humanity – can be given, accepted, and shared, but it cannot be explained. And if it can’t be explained, it cannot be confined.5
According to Patterson, Virginia Heinlein once stated, “One of Robert’s ambitions was to break every taboo.” One of Heinlein’s purposes in writing Time Enough For Love was to break sexual taboos, and especially incest. Enough has been written about its existence that I won’t add to the description here. Suffice to say that Lazarus Long engages in practically every form of (adult consensual) incest imaginable, and a few which are not all that imaginable. I will neither praise nor vilify Heinlein for the things his characters do, nor will I participate in any of the “crit fic” as to the author’s reasons for having his characters do them.
However, I do want to note that many people are wrong in their characterization of the incest portrayed in the novel.
To be clear, the incest portrayed in Time Enough For Love is not Oedipal, even if one were to reduce the entirety of the book to the final segment of “Da Capo.” Yes, Long goes back in time and sleeps with his mother, knowing it’s his mother, and she knowing who he is (or at least believing that he is telling the truth when he reveals himself to her). This setup is not only entirely different from the story of Oedipus, who did not know who his mother and father were, but it also results in an entirely different outcome. The story of Oedipus is a tragedy, in which he kills his father, unbeknownst to him at the time, and his mother later kills herself upon learning the truth. Oedipus then blinds himself with two pins from his mother’s outfit. In contrast, Lazarus and his mother Maureen become friends and lovers, and Lazarus befriends his father and seeks to learn from him in the same way that Lazarus’ future family seek to learn from him.
(It is worth noting that Heinlein does not shy away from mentioning Oedipus, either. Another character, Galahad, refers to Oedipus specifically while speaking about his own mother.)
Neither are any of the incestuous relationships Lazarus engages in Freudian – insofar as Freud’s Oedipus complex is distinct from the classical tale – as Debra A. Moddelmog suggests.6 The Oedipus complex, as described by Freud includes two components: a desire to kill one’s same-gender parent and to sleep with one’s other-gender parent. Freud also names it as a neurosis in children, the result (if it persists) of an unhealthy, one-way desire. The mantra repeated throughout Time Enough For Love, however, is that all of the relationships and sexual activity are adult, mutual, and ultimately advantageous to all parties involved.
Whether these distinctions changes how one reads the story is up to the reader. However, failing to acknowledge the distinctions is to take the story as something different than it is – which, to me, is a worse offense than any Heinlein might have created in writing it.
Lazarus and the Doctor
As the co-host of a podcast on Doctor Who, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least bring up some comparisons between that show and Time Enough For Love.
For one thing, there’s the long life aspect, a feat that’s made possible for Long through multiple rejuvenations (sometimes referred to as regenerations). Howard Family rejuvenations aren’t like Time Lord regenerations, in that they require one to visit a clinic and undergo a fairly intensive series of medical processes and procedures. However, like Time Lord regenerations, there is a theoretical limit to Howard Family rejuvenations – and like the Doctor, Lazarus Long seems to be an exception to that limit.
Then, there’s Long’s description of his ship, Dora:
My ship is a spaceship—like Jules Verne, only more so. A starship, I live on a planet a long way off. But it is a timeship, too; she travels in both space and time and it’s too complicated to explain.
Not only do we get the traveling “in both space and time,” but he does the requisite handwaving about the mechanics of such a feat. Such travel is possible, and that’s all we need to know…
Of course, given Long’s rampant sexuality, it might be more appropriate to compare him to Captain Jack Harkness – a name not dissimilar to those which Long himself dons through the years (Corporal Ted Bronson, Captain Aaron Sheffield, etc.). I’m not sure Long fits into the same “omnisexual” category that Jack does, though that’s probably due more to a lack of opportunity than orientation. An article from last year on bisexuality in science fiction includes both Long and Harkness in its litany of characters.
And of course, let’s not forget the Doctor Who episode, “The Lazarus Experiment.” In it, Dr. Lazarus creates a machine that essentially reverses the aging process. Things go wrong, genetics get muddled, but the technology is essentially the same kind that is perfected by the Howard Families in Heinlein’s story (though, their rejuvenation process takes a bit longer).
I don’t have anything more solid than these points of comparison, but they are worth noting here, nonetheless.
1. Between I Will Fear No Evil and Time Enough For Love, Heinlein wrote a foreword to Beyond Jupiter: The Worlds of the Grand Tour, a non-fiction “tour” of the universe by Arthur C. Clarke and Chesley Bonestell. However, the book was changed before publication, and Heinlein’s foreword was excised from the finished product. The text of the would-be foreword is included in Virginia Edition, Vol. 37, The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.
2. Time Enough For Love came out about the same time as Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, and the two books were reviewed side-by-side by several publications, including the Times. In the abstract for the article, they are referred to as “two new, quite satisfactory novels by two of the grand old men of science-fiction.”
3. Not technically true, as only the first half is told in flashbacks, but the point stands nonetheless.
4. Unfortunately, Patterson does not actually identify the passages he attributes for these comparisons. Cabell wrote in a letter that, while he often aspired to write such “contrapuntal prose” (as he called it), he was not always able to detect it again in reading it once it was written: “I can only give my private opinion, in so far as possible, as a reader.” Warren A. McNeill, writing on Cabellian Harmonics, says Cabell “admitted the counterpoint is there only if the reader sees it”; likewise, whatever Heinlein might have intended, if such hidden prose poetry exists, both he and Patterson have not made it clear where it is located.
That said, it’s probable Patterson is referring to the opening of “The Tale of the Adopted Daughter,” which renders almost perfectly into trochaic tetrameter:
Stand with me on Man’s old planet,
gazing north when sky has darkened;
follow down the Dipper’s handle,
half again and veering leftward—
Do you see it? Can you sense it?
Nothing there but cold and darkness.
Try again with both eyes covered,
try once more with inner vision,
hearken now to wild geese honking,
sounding through the endless spaces
bouncing off the strange equations—
It goes on like that for several more paragraphs.
On a separate note, my other subject of study, Benjamin De Casseres, was a friend and admirer of James Branch Cabell’s as well.
5. Throughout this story I was reminded numerous times of my favorite quote about love from Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms: “The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries.”
6. “Actually, two other mythemes also reappear in various science fiction works: the murder of the father (7) and incest with the mother (9). As the cornerstones of Freud’s theories about the family, these two mythemes form part of a psychoanalytic stream within science fiction. This stream arises, or develops its strongest currents, around 1950, when the so-called New Wave writers shifted the arena explored by the genre from external to internal space and identified this redirection as ‘speculative fiction.’ Such ‘interiorization’ entailed a consciousness of psychoanalytic theory; and Freudian, as well as Jungian, ideas began to supply a sort of secondary mythos from which the science fiction author could draw. Among such works are Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love (1973), where the adult protagonist travels back to the time and place of his childhood and makes love to his mother; and Philip José Farmer’s Night of Light (1966)…. However, as interesting as these plot twists might be, their primary source is Freud, not Sophocles. The entire disposition of the incest and patricide mythemes in these stories comes from the Oedipus complex rather than the Oedipus myth. Put another way, these novels are actually structured around a second-order myth (Freud’s interpretation of Oedipus) rather than the Oedipus myth itself.”
“FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Robert A. Heinlein, his works.” The Heinlein Society. HeinleinSociety.org, 2003. Updated February 2013. Web.
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000. Print.
Heinlein, Robert A. Grumbles from the Grave. Ed. Virginia Heinlein. New York: Del Ray Books, 1989. Print.
Heinlein, Robert A. Time Enough For Love. Virginia Edition. Vol. 2. Quebec: Virginia Edition Publishing Company, 2008. Print.
McNeill, Warren A. Cabellian Harmonics. New York: Random House, 1928. Print.
Near, George. “Heinlein’s Longest Novel Ambitious.” Abilene Reporter News. Sept. 9, 1973. p. B3. Print.
Patterson, William H., Jr. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century. Vol. 2. New York: Tor Books, 2014. Print.
Riley, Tim. “Iowa Bookshelf.” Times Herald (Carroll, Iowa). Aug. 31, 1973. p. 2. Print.
Schulman, J. Neil. The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana. Mill Valley, CA: Pulpless.com, 1999. Ebook.
Tan, Cecilia. “A Look at Bisexuality in Science Fiction.” Lambda Literary. Jan. 18, 2015. Web.
“Time Enough For Love.” Kirkus Reviews. June 19, 1973.
Tinsley, Robert W. “Book Review: Time Enough For Love.” El Paso Prospector. Sept. 20, 1973. p. 5. Print.