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The Right Stuff Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Apr 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Illustrated, 1 Apr 2005
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Inc; Illustrated edition edition (April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579124585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579124588
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 2.3 x 28.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 814,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

"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 sold

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is primarily the story of Project Mercury and its seven astronauts who became media celebrities during the golden age of space travel, when NASA had an almost unlimited budget to catch and then beat the Soviets in the Space Race.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Tom Wolfe is an outstanding writer, and this book shows him at his best. Wolfe recounts the careers of the first US astronauts, from their early hell-raising lives as test pilots to the first space flights and beyond, in exquisite, entertaining prose. His descriptions, whether of a crashed pilot "burned beyond recognition", or the minute-by-minute experience of the first astronauts in the Mercury programme, are mesmerising. Perhaps his greatest achievement is to describe the astronauts (eg the Peugeot-driving John Glenn) both as heroic, larger-than-life figures and as real, believable human beings.
Summary: an extraordinary book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The prose as some have mentioned is perhaps a little off putting! Perhaps you enjoy dynamic, exciting, action! And you love exclamations marks! And Drama!
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.
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Format: Paperback
When I was at university (a couple of years ago) I had a few 'truths' drummed into me. All in a subtle, needling were-not-telling-you-what-to-think-but-this-is-what-you-have-to-think type of way. First, genius doesn't exist. Second, there are no absolute 'truths' (hence the stupid speechmarks that crop up around every other word these days). Third, the Hero was dead.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rarely do I spend my money so well. 'The Right Stuff' is easily worth ten times the amount I paid for it, both in terms of its informative value, as well as in the level of entertainment it provides. And 'entertainment' is definitely the right word. This is an easy, amusing, light-hearted, sometimes even humorous piece of writing. Don't be deceived, however. When the author deals with life threatening situations (of which there were plenty), he makes you acutely aware that this is no joking matter.
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Format: Paperback
You carry your expectations to a book, and this one was a disappointment to me. This book, in my view, offers a sophisticated version of hero worship. But, while showing many of the foibles of the characters, it is worshipful and indeed, facile myth generation. You get a bunch of you-are-there style descriptions - the kind of light stream-of-consciousness that made Wolfe famous as a hip young beat journalist - and they are fine as far as they go, but at least for me, I felt there is far too little substance behind it.

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.
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