under any reasonable conditions—but can I be sure? With another father, with other goals set for me, what might I have become?
Jews, generally (according to the stereotype), value learning and encourage their children to enter the intellectual professions.How true that stereotype is, or how general it is, I do not know. Certainly I have met many Jews who are neither as intelligent or as learned as many Gentiles I have met.
But the special case of my father is beyond doubt. Perhaps because he had himself passed from a state of being educated and learned to a state of being virtually illiterate, he valued education and learning all the more. He could not regain what he had once had, but he was determined that I was to have it.
He would not let me read the magazines he sold to others, because he felt they would muddy my thinking—but he let me read science-fiction magazines, because he respected the word "science" and felt they would lure me into becoming a scientist—and he was right.
He had no money to buy me the things I wanted, and I knew that, and I rarely asked him for anything—but, when I was overwhelmed with desire for something that spelled "learning," he managed to find a way to let me have it.When I was eleven, he bought me a copy of the World Almanac for my birthday, when that was what I wanted.I might have cried myself sick for a baseball but I wouldn't have gotten it.
When I was fifteen, he managed to scrape together the funds to buy me a used typewriter when I wanted it. If I had wanted a bicycle, I might as well have asked for the moon.—And as soon as I submitted a story to a magazine, when I was eighteen, and before I had actually sold one, my father, on his own initiative, managed to find the money to buy me a new typewriter. That was an act of faith that staggered me.
Long afterward, when I was turning out book after book in steady progression, and giving a copy of each to my father as a matter of course, he looked through one of my more difficult science popularizations and finally managed to ask me something that must have long puzzled him.
"Isaac," he said, hesitantly, "where did you learn all this?"
"From you, Pappa," I said.
"From me?" he said. "I don't know one word about these things."
"Pappa," I said, "you taught me to value learning.That's all that counts. All these things are just details."