Editorial Reviews. musicmarkup.info Review. Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it 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. The Right Stuff is one of several great books in this list that derive from the interaction of high journalism and a higher literary ambition. In Books are not stable substances: their tone, flavour and entire angle of attack can be altered by the passage of time. The Right Stuff by Tom.
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The Right Stuff is a book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar research with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as. Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it was unfashionable to contemplate American heroism. Updated May 15, RIP, Tom Wolfe reading this book was such an eye-opener. Tom Wolfe's book about the American space race is a high-octane non-fiction masterpiece. The Right Stuff [Tom Wolfe] on musicmarkup.info *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. From America's nerviest journalist (Newsweek)--a breath-taking epic, a.
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 s, 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. Chuck Yeager was certainly among the fastest, and his determination to push through Mach a feat that some had predicted would cause the destruction of any aircraft--makes him the book's guiding spirit. Yet soon the focus shifts to the seven initial astronauts. 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.
It's — excuse the pun — a blast. View all 7 comments. Treasure of the Rubbermaids Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. It looks more like a toy, something that a kid might have in his backyard to play rocket ship, rather than a vehicle that actually took a man into space.
What Tom Wolfe did here is try to convey the mindset of an America panicked by suddenly finding itself behind the Soviet Union in the space race, and how in its desperation it turned seven pilots chosen to be the first astronauts into national heroes. Those men would find themselves in a media spotlight where the image they presented was often more important than their actual skills in the cockpit.
The fact that Yeager did this with broken ribs and used a length of sawed-off broom handle as a lever to close the hatch on his X-1 rocket plane because he was in too much pain to lean over made it that much more impressive.
To them the Mercury program was a publicity stunt in which the astronauts would only be sealed in a can and shot into space without really flying the ship at all. Hell, it was so easy that a monkey could do it, and a couple actually did. Yet after the media declared the Mercury 7 as the best and bravest that America had to offer everyone started forgetting about the test pilots and put all the resources and attention on the astronauts.
The seven men themselves would start pushing back for changes that gave them more control of their spacecraft, and while they may have started out as a little more than guinea pigs they used their popularity to get more power and control within the fledgling NASA.
More importantly to them, it would show the world that they really did have the right stuff. This is all written more as a novel than a history. It also delves into the personal lives of the astronauts where they and their wives would try to present an All-American image even as some of the men were taking full advantage of the new celebrity they had attained.
As a space geek and historical stickler I do find it lacking at a couple of points. I also think he also does a disservice to Gus Grissom whose mission nearly ended in disaster after splashdown when his capsule door unexpectedly blew open. Grissom nearly drowned at the capsule was lost at sea.
It was recovered almost 40 years later.
It has been restored and can be seen at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS. View all 8 comments.
Mar 24, Bradley rated it it was amazing Shelves: And while that really dates me, it also sparked my fascination with the OTHER side of the science fiction coin. And even if I'm not fanatical about learning science, I've never stopped learning and I don't want to. Sure, I may be doing it only to give my own writing much more verve, but understanding reality has been an end in and of itself.
Of course, I can lay all that internal pressure at this book's feet. So what about the book, man? It's great! Exciting, with novelistic concessions, flaws, tension, dramatic release, and pure Right Stuff splattering all over the place. What is the Right Stuff? It's Men, son.
It's Real Men. So many of the aspects to the early test pilots made me want to cringe with all the drunk driving, drunk flying, womanizing, and all the doublespeak going on in American culture at the time.
I mean, the insistence that the public needs to be told and shown what to think was intense and to a modern eye, as pathetic and commonplace, if of a VERY different tone, as it is today. Everyone tells everyone else what to think now, but it's fractured. Back then, everyone was doing whatever they wanted under the surface and the whole collective banded together to put on a brave, otherworldly, face back then.
Or at least, that's the impression. And heck, that may not even be the most important part of this book. The heroism is. The cult of personality is. The Space Program was in decline back when I watched this movie the first time and it sure as hell still is, now, and I'm given a very big impression that it only became a thing because of the personalities behind it.
Kennedy is King Arthur and his Knights, the astronauts.
The idealism and the space race and kicking the Soviets in the space-can was larger than life Of course, isn't it the same today?
Cult of personality can bring it out and kill it. It's not about science or even NEED. It's not about doing all the real things we need to do as a species if we have a hope of surviving.
It's about narrative. And if even a tiny bit of that goes away, then the support of the public will kill it. LOL do I sound bitter? Leaving soapbox now. View all 5 comments. Aug 02, Elizabeth K. I seem to read one about every 15 years and in between I forget what an unpleasant experience I find it.
I cannot! The exclamation points! I'm one of those people who, constitutionally, cannot ignore an exclamation point on the printed page, so reading this was like being shouted at for great lengths of time. As everyone in the free world already knows, this is Tom Wolfe's book about the Mercury Space program, focusing on the personalities of the test pilots and the social significance of beating the Russians into space, or you know, failing to do that.
I'm sure I've seen the movie countless times, mostly in parts on cable, but I had never read the book and that didn't seem right. I'm not even sure it seems right now, either, but I will say that for a book that I found almost painful to read, I have absolutely no doubt it informs just about every image we have of the space race and NASA in popular culture.
So that part is impressive. I don't even know. This is one of those books where I feel like I gained something in the end, but the process of getting there was almost unbearable. I didn't hate it but this is a case for me where the book did not live up to the movie.
Sure there are many MANY more details but for sheer entertainment value? I liked that Yeager played a larger role than he didn't even in the movie and that the book encompasses the Apollo astronauts briefly. There was also much more context given in relation to the geopolitical events of the day and how those impacted the space program.
What I liked less was how long winded it is in certain places with a little too much extraneous detail for my tastes. Then again, I have the attention span of a hummingbird so Good ole Dennis Quaid gave a heck of a performance. Maybe he was overenthusiastic at times but he gave it his all and I appreciate that sort of passion. No offense to Tom Wolfe, but side mouthes the movie's better. Feb 22, Matthew Quann rated it really liked it Recommended to Matthew by: Glenn Sumi.
While listening to Dennis Quaid's narration, I felt as if a gruff stranger had sat beside me at a bar, bought me a pint, and started in on some conspiratorial, you're-not-gonna-believe-it storytelling.
There's definitely an air of the old guard letting you in on the secrets of their exalted reign, and it is a hell of a fun bit of storytelling. Wolfe somehow manages to make the writing seem conversational, dynamic, and filled with life. Quaid does a bang-up job bringing it all to life.
I was pleasantly surprised with the book's overwhelmingly funny stories, or how a reverential, country-wide event took on the aspect of the ordinary to the astronauts. Wolfe's history isn't the lifeless stuff of dusty textbooks, but is instead drenched in beer, revelry, and the unexpected glory of becoming a voyager to the stars. Though you get a sense of time's general trajectory, it is Wolfe's subjects that make the book such a riot.
I did take a while to listen to the book, but that's more of an issue of an overwhelming personal schedule than a comment on my enjoyment of the book. Indeed, I often opted to read another book rather than listen to this one, but I always enjoyed checking in on the righteous brethren.
This one is ludicrously fun, interesting, and a must for anyone interested in the history of space flight. Thanks to Glenn Sumi for putting me on to this one with his stellar review. View 2 comments. Test pilots have The Right Stuff. Astronauts have The Right Stuff. Thus Tom Wolfe pulls us into Chuck Yeager's world in Muroc in the 's when the sound barrier is about to be broken and segues us into the original Seven - the chosen ones with the righteous, righteous stuff, the first men into space.
Never mind a monkey's gonna make the first flight! Never mind our rockets always blow up! Wolfe goes into detail about the astronauts' lives, the astronauts' wives, the Drinking and Driving, the Drinking and Flying oh, wait, there WAS no flying for these Mercury Seven!
As always with Tom Wolfe, you're there with Yeager in the X-1, you're floundering in the ocean with Gus Grissom, you're looking at the fireflies with John Glenn in Friendship 7, and you're there and just as upset with the chimpanzee receiving the electric shocks in the feet when he screws up. And you're there when some Friend of Widows and Orphans comes to your door after there's been an accident.
I have to give a shout out to local hero Scott Carpenter! Okay, maybe he had a bit too much fun up there in Aurora 7 some controversy surrounds this , but he was well loved here. Also, as an aside, Grissom's capsule was recovered in Unfortunately, still no way to determine if the hatch "just blew".
Interesting read. Recommended if you can handle Tom Wolfe's writing style and can get in the back of the spaceship and peek around front to see what's really happening.
View all 4 comments. A quite good read, but not really what I would expect from Wolfe. The tone is very informal and the narrative almost unstructured conversational. This makes the first third a bit slow and drawn out as we're repeatedly hammered by the problem with the start of the Mercury program being that the pilot-cum-astronauts would not be required, or even able to, use their flying skills. The race with Russia was full on from the start and the feats being accomplished under their program, with little forew A quite good read, but not really what I would expect from Wolfe.
The race with Russia was full on from the start and the feats being accomplished under their program, with little forewarning or insights, is compared to the "Chief Designer" and the "Integral" of Zamyatin's "We".
This is an apt parallel, but awfully tiresome when used times Something happens near the middle of the book though, and when actual space flights and orbital flights start taking place, it's almost unputdownable.
The last part of the book slows down some again, but does have it's definite highlights, such as the "astronaut charm school" teaching such indispensable knowledge as what way your thumbs should be pointed, should you ever put your hands on your hips.
Which, as we all know, probably should be avoided altogether. Another great part is the failed Yeager attempt to set a new altitude record for the souped-up version of the F fighter plane. All in all, should the first third be tightened up some and a few mentions of the "Integral" be removed along with a bunch of exclamation marks! As it is, it's well worth reading. Literary readers, fans of non-fiction and biography, and readers who are jaded towards heroism. Easily one of the best books I've read this year, and one of those books I kick myself for having put off for so long.
It possesses the very best of Wolfe; Kesey-like humor, Heller-like shrewdness and Steinbeck-like depth. Unlike so many biographical or journalistic books, it managed to make me feel for these people as well as inform me about them. He grabs the possibiltiy of their heroism and absoluteness of their cultural importance like the two horns of a bull, and wrestles the creature down Easily one of the best books I've read this year, and one of those books I kick myself for having put off for so long.
He grabs the possibiltiy of their heroism and absoluteness of their cultural importance like the two horns of a bull, and wrestles the creature down into an infinitely readable narrative. That he did it despite heroism being unpopular among literary elites at the time only makes this more interesting, and from the beginning he makes his understanding of heroism clear, with references not to colorful spandex-wearing superheroes, but to warriors from a time so distant that we can barely conceive its paradigm of war.
It examines many rungs in our social hierarchies, and never forgets who deserves the most sympathy - not the hero, not who forces the hero to become the hero, but the people who are helpless to do anything but watch as their loved ones ascend. Way back in , Tom Wolfe packaged together an exciting story about the initial fleeting moments of the space race, as well as a delightful sense of humor, within the two covers of a non-fiction book.
The Right Stuff aged well, managing in this recent read to deliver relevant and insightful commentary about an intensely fascinating historical period amidst the Cold War. From Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern Cal Way back in , Tom Wolfe packaged together an exciting story about the initial fleeting moments of the space race, as well as a delightful sense of humor, within the two covers of a non-fiction book.
He studied the subculture among these men and the mass hysteria, driven by fears of Soviet Communist space supremacy, which surrounded these original seven astronauts. Among other fun techniques, Wolfe employed a unique stylistic repetition of his favorite words and key phrases. Though writing literary criticism may be as important as delving out acclaim, this read left me feeling a rare sense of awe for the author.
While I am not a fan of Wolfe's writing style wasn't that impressed with 'Bonfire of the Vanities' either I do acknowledge that he is a keen observer and makes some astute observations about the space program and the country's relationship with it in the early days.
I have seen the movie many times - and enjoy it, probably more than the book - but reading the book I found that an important part of the narrative had been grossly underplayed in the movie. In the movie, it's implied but not very f While I am not a fan of Wolfe's writing style wasn't that impressed with 'Bonfire of the Vanities' either I do acknowledge that he is a keen observer and makes some astute observations about the space program and the country's relationship with it in the early days.
In the movie, it's implied but not very forcefully that Chuck Yeager is really at the top of the pyramid even though he is not eligible to participate in Project Mercury.
This theme is explored much more fully in the book. At several intervals, Wolfe compares the accomplishments of the rocket pilots especially the X pilots such as Robert White, Neil Armstrong and Joe Walker to the accomplishments really lack thereof of the Mercury astronauts. Wolfe is saying that the X pilots who were really piloting their crafts, as opposed to being mere occupants like the Mercury guys were never given the recognition they were due.
I agree. One other note: This book genuinely gets the adrenaline pumping. There's a scene where Chuck Yeager takes an NF up to , feet about 10 miles into "space" , then looses control and goes into a spin, plummeting to 20, feet before regaining enough control to safely eject. Then the seat gets tangled in the parachute lines and spills corrosive fuel why was there corrosive fuel in the chair?
He fights through the intense pain of melting eyeball to free up the parachute and land sa This book genuinely gets the adrenaline pumping. He fights through the intense pain of melting eyeball to free up the parachute and land safely, maintaining his cool through the ordeal. Wolfe's analysis of the larger picture of the cold war is clear-sighted and nuanced, and although his rhetoric is often cloying and occasionally embarrassing and infantile, for the most part this is a lot of fun.
I still defy anyone to read the first chapter, as Wolfe follows the path of a plane crash through the trees, and not be dazzled by his style. View all 3 comments.
Poetic, historical, with a wry humor. A few too many exclamation points! I really enjoyed this overview of the early days of the space race - all of the Mercury program, plus some of what led up to it and also what came after.
Chuck Yeager plays a major part. The writing style is breezy and conversational, while somehow touching on most of the facts. I also enjoyed the pilot's humor. Sometimes the prose went past poetic and into repetitious. I look forward to reading a recent bio of him Calculated Risk: Overall rating, a solid Mach 4. I plan to rewatch the film also - it's been decades. Addendum June - read the referenced biography and another book on the early space program Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, Wolfe may have taken a few liberties, and the film took several more.
In Grissom's case, for example, the book mentioned panic and then pride as a possibility, where the film made it a certainty. While I wouldn't advise a reader take The Right Stuff as gospel history, it is a very poetic portrayal of the people involved.
The Right Stuff falls in the troublesome category of history books written by journalists. On the one hand, the book is wonderful to read, enlightening, insightful, and inspiring. Throughout the work, Wolfe creates an extended analogy between these men and the warriors of ancient times who engaged in single combat. He argues that such courageous men of old received veneration, glory, and honor because of their choice to engage in single combat on behalf of an entire people — and such veneration was given to them before the actual combat took place.
The accuracy of this analogy is up for debate, but it is interesting nonetheless, and does help give the story extra weight. Thus the book is simultaneously able to portray the astronauts as real, relatable men while also painting them as larger than life examples of nobility and courage. Perhaps ironically, the books emphasizes the disconnect between these pilots and the engineers behind the Mercury project.
These scientists undoubtedly deserve much of the credit for the incredible achievements of the project, yet even a fraction of the social veneration given to the astronauts was denied to the engineers who actually designed and built these amazing machines. Wolfe traces not only the irony in this truth, but the growing antagonism between the pilots, who were used to flying their own high-performance aircraft, and the engineers, who considered the astronauts as little more than passive passengers.
The insulting fact that a monkey would make the first Mercury flight became a running gag among other test pilots, but led to developments that changed the role of astronauts within NASA and set precedents for the future. The fact that these astronauts were drawn from Air Force test pilots is perhaps the most intriguing running theme of the book. In a subtle way, the book tells the story of how space exploration was wrestled from the hands of the Air Force and placed in the hands of a civilian agency, for better or for worse.
Yet both institutions were driven by the search for The Right Stuff, that heady mix of courage, bravery, and daring to push mankind to his limits and beyond. In that sense, this book is inspirational and electrifying. The reader must remember, the purpose of this work is not necessarily to tell the complete factually accurate account of the origins of the space program.
Rather, it is to tell the incredible tale of courageous men who risked their lives to achieve what was once thought impossible, using unstoppable willpower to challenge the unknown. The book attempts to ilicit that same veneration that ancient peoples had for their conquering warriors, and to inspire us through fantastical tales of achievement. In that role, it succeeds brilliantly. View 1 comment. No better book has been written about flying or the space race. Tom Wolfe has what it takes, the bubbling enthusiasm and critical eye, to write properly about astronauts.
The Right Stuff is about endurance, guts, reflexes, a cool head, and giant titanium testicles. It's about sitting No better book has been written about flying or the space race.
It's about sitting at home, waiting for a call or a knock on the door, saying that your husband's plane is lost and the man you love is nothing more than charred meat. Most of us don't live in this world, but Wolfe reconstructs how for a few years in the early 60s, with the mighty and infallible Soviet Chief Designer beating the pants out of the American space program, the Mercury Seven became Cosmic Knights, Single Combat Champions of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and the entire nation became caught up in the sage of The Right Stuff.
Wolfe records the contradictions and absurdities of the fighter pilot lifestyle, and how they became tied up with America and the space race, with the utmost respect and tenderness.
I have always been a gig fan of the film version of The Right Stuff but never got around to reading the source material, which is surprising since I really like Tom Wolfe. This is stellar non-fiction. It is funny and incredibly informative. If you never got around to it, like me, give it a spin. Was there a more fitting subject for a maximalist writer than the space race was for Tom Wolfe? Simply put, The Right Stuff is a timeless classic. Wolfe superbly details the inception of the American space program through the lens of the Mercury Seven and their wives , the group hand-selected to compete with Russia in the race to outer space.
TV was still in its fledgling phase, the internet was decades away. But we do learn how they behaved when suddenly thrust pun intended into the public eye. We also learn of their own internal battles, the struggle for recognition amongst their peers as well as betwixt one another.
This sort of Jekyll and Hyde perception could only be grounded by one as astutely observant as Wolfe, whose journalist background resonated through his excitable descriptions of both the men themselves and the missions they piloted.
Their achievements and all of the hullabaloo behind them were brief yet impactful. And it was Tom Wolfe who made these men household names, even if for only a short while. But what a short while it was! Oct 07, Bud Smith added it. Forrest Gump goes to space.
NASA In his investigation of youthful American bravado on the world stage, Wolfe created not only a classic of American history but also a story that shirked the tales of war written in the wake of World War I—stories of cruel military officers and victimized enlisted soldiers.
Wolfe wrote in a forward to The Right Stuff added in "Immediately following the First World War a certain fashion set in among writers in Europe and soon spread to their obedient colonial counterparts in the United States.
War was looked upon as inherently monstrous, and those who waged it—namely, military officers—were looked upon as brutes and philistines.
If there is a single thesis to The Right Stuff, it is perhaps that the first astronauts were the world's last single-combat warriors, men sent up into the heavens to do battle with the Soviets for the glory of God and country, standing in for a full-scale war, fighting alone so the nation would not have to send thousands to die on the battlefield.
Or at least, that was the narrative of the s and 60s. The next great achievement would be the successful launching of the first man into space. In the United States—no one could say what was taking place in the land of the mighty Integral—the men chosen for this historic mission took on the archaic mantles of the single-combat warriors of a long-since-forgotten time. They would not be going into space to do actual combat; or not immediately, although it was assumed that something of the sort might take place in a few years.
But they were entering into a deadly duel in the heavens, in any event. Our rockets always blow up.
The space war was on. They were risking their lives for their country, for their people, in "the fateful testing" versus the powerful Soviet Integral.