This memoir of Julius Schwartz' life was glowingly reviewed both in "Asimov's" and 'Analog," so I decided to get it as a Chanukah present for my husband. As he has been otherwise occupied since then, I took it upon myself to read it first, in the hopes that I might be able to actually finish a book and submit a review before J.J. got to it.
Julius Schwartz has lived a remarkable life, in both the sf and comic book worlds. He recounts astonishing facts of his life, particularly when he worked as an agent to science fiction writers in the 30's and 40's. Some of he gems: he actually met Hugo Gernsbach! He sold Ray Bradbury's first short story when Bradbury was earning a meager livingselling papers in L.A. He and his pal Mort Weisinger founded the first known fanzine in 1932. He was in charge of the program for the very first World Con in New York in 1939. And then he landed in comics when the sf field started to dry up in the forties. As a comic book editor at DC Comics, he edited a huge range of comics, including sixteen years as senior editor on the Batman series and 16 years on Superman. In fact, the staff at Superman rewarded him for his longevity and influence in the field by devoting an entire issue of the comic book to his life and achievements on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Julie, as he is known to everyone is now 85 years old, but still stomps the con sf and comic book trail on a regular basis.
So here are my major beefs with this book: basically, the guy is just a little insufferable. Here is a man who is constantly taking credit for just about every major achievement in both fields. Example sentence: "...do I dare say, indirectly my success with the Justice League of America can be credited with not just saving DC [comics] but saving Marvel as well. (Nothing like patting one's self on the back, particularly when it is well deserved!)" Near the end of the book, he actually refers to himself as a living legend, with his tongue only slightly inserted into his cheek! Julie's generousness of spirit, along with his tendency to self-centeredness, is perfectly summarized in the riotously funny afterward by Harlan Ellison.
Another major gripe of mine is that this is a book which is entirely about Schwartz's career. You get the sense the man has practically no personal life. Schwartz has this tendency to refer to any woman he encountered in the field as "the very lovely" or "the quite pretty." This I am willing to write off in consideration of his age. However, his wife is only mentioned in passing, and his children (other than a daughter who comes up in passing) are never mentioned at all. He nevers speaks of his family life, of his life together with his wife, or even whether she is still living! If I were her, I would clobber him over the head with a handbag!
Despite these flaws, both in Schwartz' character and in his book, this memoir is well worth reading. It's amazing to read about a man who has been such a central part of the sf and comic book world for nearly 75 of his 85 years. And if you get a chance to hear him speak at a con, go for it!
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