The Right Stuff Paperback – Oct 30 2001
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Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it was unfashionable to contemplate American heroism. Nixon had left the White House in disgrace, the nation was reeling from the catastrophe of Vietnam, and in 1979--the year the book appeared--Americans were being held hostage by Iranian militants. Yet it was exactly the anachronistic courage of his subjects that captivated Wolfe. In his foreword, he notes that as late as 1970, almost one in four career Navy pilots died in accidents. "The Right Stuff," he explains, "became a story of why men were willing--willing?--delighted!--to take on such odds in this, an era literary people had long since characterized as the age of the anti-hero."
Wolfe's roots in New Journalism were intertwined with the nonfiction novel that Truman Capote had pioneered with In Cold Blood. As Capote did, Wolfe tells his story from a limited omniscient perspective, dropping into the lives of his "characters" as each in turn becomes a major player in the space program. After an opening chapter on the terror of being a test pilot's wife, the story cuts back to the late 1940s, when Americans were first attempting to break the sound barrier. Test pilots, we discover, are people who live fast lives with dangerous machines, not all of them airborne.
Wolfe traces Alan Shepard's suborbital flight and Gus Grissom's embarrassing panic on the high seas (making the controversial claim that Grissom flooded his Liberty capsule by blowing the escape hatch too soon). The author also produces an admiring portrait of John Glenn's apple-pie heroism and selfless dedication. By the time Wolfe concludes with a return to Yeager and his late-career exploits, the narrative's epic proportions and literary merits are secure. Certainly The Right Stuff is the best, the funniest, and the most vivid book ever written about America's manned space program. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“An exhilarating flight into fear, love, beauty and fiery death ... magnificent.”
“It is Tom Wolfe at his very best ... technically accurate, learned, cheeky, risky, touching, tough, compassionate, nostalgic, worshipful, jingoistic — The Right Stuff is superb.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“Breathtaking ... epic ... There are images and ideas in The Right Stuff that glisten like a rocket screaming to the heavens.”
— Los Angeles Times
“Romantic and thrilling ... One of the most romantic and thrilling books ever written about men who put themselves in peril.”
— The Boston Globe
“It’s magic ... the best book I have read in the last ten years.”
— Chicago Tribune
Also by Tom Wolfe:
The Bonfire of the Vanities
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
From Bauhaus to Our House
The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby
The Painted Word
The Right Stuff
Mauve Gloves & Madmen
Clutter & Vine
In Our Time
The Pumphouse Gang
Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers
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Top Customer Reviews
This is inspiring nonfiction of the highest order. It was the near prospect of imminent death that brought it all together. They were modern samurai. It was a huge gamble, and we all went for it. Other reviewers have commented elequently on Tom Wofle's prodigious writing talent, so I will leave it there. Bottom line, you can count on one hand novels that captured the full depth and breadth of intense emotion that surrounded the space race of the 1960s. Particularly in the late 70s and early 80s. Jim Lovell's Lost Moon is a good example.Read more ›
This book epitomizes the bright and dark side of Wolfe's school of writing, too. Above all, Wolfe can be as riveting and as entertaining as you'll find -- "truth can be funnier than fiction." I have heard how Wolfe caught the essence of what someone wanted to say even better than the one who said it, and he sure puts you into the thick of the action. The author gives a legitimate and interesting perspective. Nevertheless, this style plays heavily on your emotions, with all the problems that can involve, and the book is not terribly objective -- a purely entertaining incident can assume more importance than it should.Read more ›
First, Wolfe clearly did his research, filling the story with details and facts which prove illuminating (I do wish he included dates more frequently; sometimes it's hard to tell when an event is taking place). His detailed descriptions of the flights of Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Chuck Yeager practically put you in the pilot's seat.
Second, he manages to capture the emotions and feelings of the time, showing the competitive nature that drove the astronauts, how their wives wanted respect, and how the public adored their new space heroes.
Finally, he ties it all together with some good philosophical insights. The Right Stuff! Single Warrior Combat!
My only lament about the book is that Tom Wolfe makes it look so easy. Too many writers since then have tried to imitate his style -- but without doing the fundamental research that makes a good story. The result can be tedious and superficial writing.
"The Right Stuff" is a triumph. Though it doesn't tell the whole story of the space program, Wolfe sets up an ingenious theme.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
An excellent read-great read to hear of the actual happenings at the time.Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
Read the The Astronaut Wives recently. The Right Stuff presents the 'men's' perspective during a very exciting time in the history of space travel. Enjoying it!Published 4 months ago by Gayle Davis
A terrific look back at an America made innocent through fear of the Soviet challenge in space and rendered jaded by its own triumphs.Published on Sept. 9 2013 by Mark Housego
There was a time when space flight launch and missions were covered on live TV not a 30 second clip at the end of the news. I read this book when it first came out. Read morePublished on April 11 2010 by Garry Hoffman
"The Right Stuff" BY Tom Wolfe's book was a wonderful American story about the Mercury space program that told the tale of U.S. Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by Steven R. Travers
Although Tom Wolfe's way of writing may seem strange and at times weird, the story of these test pilots and pioneer astronauts is a classic. Read morePublished on May 9 2004 by Alex Salazar
Hey, I stayed up way to late reading this book our national effort to win the space race. Included in this book is the contributions of the pilots from Joshua treed, dusty desert... Read morePublished on May 7 2004 by Amazon Customer
This book is just a thoroughly enjoyable read. Funny, exciting, charming, moving; what more could you want? Read morePublished on July 4 2003 by L. R. Travis
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