Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had heated discussions with friends about Richard Feynman — more precisely, about the character of Feynman as he presents himself in his popular memoirs Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?
I read these books as a kid and found the experience profoundly off-putting — like being trapped in a room for hours with a guy who keeps saying, “You know, that reminds me of yet another occasion on which small-minded types were first startled, then chastened, by my unconventional yet plainly superior approach!” The second book, in particular, might better have been titled What Do You Care What Other People Think? Other People Are Stupid! It was very popular with the toxic nerds who liked to refer to science fiction non-fans as “mundanes.”
And yet: I have recently found that lots of gentle and thoughtful grownups find the protagonist of these books charming, and even admirable. So again, I ask: am I the weird one here? Am I selectively remembering these books as meaner than they were? Are normal people fond of Feynman?