The Right Stuff Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Apr 2005
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"An exhilarating flight into fear, love, beauty and fiery death ... magnificent."-- "People "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 VanitiesThe Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestFrom Bauhaus to Our HouseThe Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline BabyThe Painted WordThe Right StuffMauve Gloves & MadmenClutter & VineIn Our TimeThe Pumphouse GangRadical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers Available wherever Bantam Books are soldSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
As if this is not enough, the book touches on Chuck Yeager's exploits in the X-1 when breaking the sound barrier in October 1947 and also gives an account of the achievements of the X-15 Spaceplane and its pilots.
The book tells of the hero worship that the Mercury Seven and their wives received (especially John Glenn and Alan Shepherd), including ticker tape parades, meeting the President and addressing Congress. This is hard to believe today in an age when we take space travel for granted. But it also goes into detail of the mission foul ups of Scott Carpenter and Gus Grissom and tells many anecdotes of great interest that Wolfe obtained by interviewing flight and non flight members of Project Mercury. A great book, I cannot fault it.
Summary: an extraordinary book.
Nevertheless, the story is excellent. If you find the style too jarring, you could watch the excellent movie. Indeed, watch the movie anyway it is highly recommended.
I was taught that the Hero (as a concept/character type/role model) didn't apply to us these days. It was a macho construction, or something.
The Right Stuff brought back the notion of heroism - that fantastic, boy's own, Indiana Jones, Spiderman, stick the poster on your wall type of heroism that takes you back to your childhood.
And why not? Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepheard, John Glenn. The things these men went through to break the sound-barrier, to get man into space were astounding. They risked their lives every time they got into their aircraft, yet they were cool as snowmen.
Tom Wolfe brings the danger, the adrenaline, the burnt-to-a -cinder plane crashes to life in wonderfully sympathetic, excited, yet brilliantly crafted style.
This is the best of Tom Wolfe's books. Partly, I think, because he actually respected/admired his subject this time around.
I absolutely loved this book. It was so nice to read a romantic book about recent history, rather than the cynical political stuff you get spoonfed at University.
In spite of Wolfe's somewhat cynical veneer, the characters fall into some pretty simplistic stereotypes. You get the tough, natural aristocrat, Chuck Yeager, the real yet unknown superstar, and then you get the media-sensation astronauts, who are promoted for political propaganda reasons. Thus, there is John Glenn ("the clean marine") and a host of other less colorful characters. I did not feel I got to know much about them. Glenn, whom I worked for in the Senate 20 years ago, comes off as the most boring of straight men, which I don't think encompasses him well at all.
Then there is the period of history in which it all takes place, the Cold War. Wolfe offers nothing much of interest about this frightening period of technological competition between the US and USSR. I felt it was just kind of a useful background for Wolfe. This stands in stark contrast to Wolfe's wonderful Electric Coolaid Acid Test, which really plumbed a lot of the 1960s psychedelic spirit - that was why I expected so much more, I suppose.
I would recommend this as a fun read, but not much beyond that. It is strictly throwaway and does not demand much concentration or stimulate the reader to dig deeper elsewhere, which for me signals a failed reading experience.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
All students of literature should read Tom Wolfe for his style and clarity of story-telling. The Right Stuff is one of his best.Published 3 months ago by MR ROSS D MILNE
Sad to find such a great work so badly presented.
Poorly printed on cheap, nasty paper..
Looks like a 5 year old made it with a potato.
No exaggeration.. Read more
A little repetitive. But interesting. These men were of a unique culture. Modern Spartans. Inspiring and daunting.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
'The Right Stuff' shares the first place of 'bestest books ever about planes' with Hamilton-Patersons' Empire of the Clouds. A lot of people know the former, few know the latter. Read morePublished 10 months ago by M. Baerends
This still remains the go-to book if you want to find out what motivated the men of the early space programme; the days when it really was the wild frontier full of unknowns. Read morePublished 16 months ago by John Schofield
FANTASTIC, SECOND READ AFTER IT WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE 70's and IT WAS EVEN BETTER READING IT NOW. DEFINATELY MOST A FIVE STAR READ.....Published 19 months ago by vicky de rivera
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