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The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
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The Right Stuff (original 1979; edition 1980)

by Tom Wolfe

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2,875402,010 (4.19)81
Member:justjim
Title:The Right Stuff
Authors:Tom Wolfe
Info:Bantam (1980), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Space, History, X projects, Mercury, Apollo

Work details

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1979)

Recently added byBookMarine, theleperking, chas2, kcwoodby, Ithiaca, rrees, private library, TheBookStop, sandrikoti
  1. 20
    Failure is not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Eugene Kranz (Anonymous user)
  2. 10
    V-2 by Walter Dornberger (dukeallen)
  3. 10
    A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin (paulkid)
    paulkid: Chaikin gives a respectful account of the later astronauts' journeys and their personalities, while Wolfe gives irreverent and hilarious depictions of the mood and personalities surrounding the beginning of the space race (ie, Mercury and pre-Mercury).
  4. 00
    Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Wolfe tells of the early and sometimes would-be astronauts and Smith of the later ones who walked on the moon. Both books are wonderfully readable.
  5. 01
    Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (nessreader)
    nessreader: The shift in corporate mentality in NASA between the testosterone drenched fighter pilots of Wolfe's era and the team orientated and PR-paranoid present is instructive. The terrifying discipline required seems equal; in any case, interesting to compare.
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This is the story of America's first astronauts. The original seven men chosen to go into space. It starts out explaining what it was like to be a fighter pilot in the late 50 and discussed Yeager breaking the sound barrier and how the way he carried himself influenced other pilots. He had the right stuff. And to be a great pilot, you had to have the right stuff. Part of that included some level of contempt for death. Because you had a 23% chance of dying as a fighter pilot in some sort of accident. So the right stuff get a lot of comment from the author as he goes thru his history. It becomes the theme of the book.

The seven were all drawn from the pilot community. Most of them were fighter pilots. Sheppard was the first American in space. Grissom was next and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet. The Russians were beating us each time we were planning on doing something in space. Americans were more than concerned, they were frightened. The Russians were flying over our country in space and we couldn't do anything about it much less repeat the feat. What was there to stop them from dropping an atom bomb on their way over our cities?

The positive patriotic reaction to Glenn's space flight was dramatic. New York City gave him a parade, in the winter, where the streets were packed with cheering crying people. They were so proud of him and the national achievement that crowds of people were cheering with tears streaming down their faces! Even the policemen on their horses directing traffic were crying. I've never seen anything like that personally and wonder what it would take for Americans to feel that kind of passionate pride again?

A decent history though you can tell there are some bias on the part of the author (Wasn't a fan of Grissom) and he has his way of viewing things. This book goes thru the end of Project Mercury. The original seven pilots went on to do other great things but this book doesn't follow them past project Mercury. The second group begin their time at the end of the book. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Author Tom Wolfe has done something that I did not expect when I started reading "The Right Stuff", his book about the first astronauts and the Mercury program. He did not just write a history of the early days of the race to space, pre-NASA, nor did he just write an expose of the personal details of those involved in that program. No, Tom Wolfe wrote a factual and funny commentary on test pilots, the military, government bureaucracy, and the news media. It's entertaining, informative, amusing, and interesting: I was never bored, nor did my focus wane over the course of almost 400 pages. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote fuzzi | Jan 27, 2015 |
Read it after seeing the movie, great story for someone who literally grew up when it was happening. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 25, 2015 |
If you don't mind hyperbole then Wolfe is your man. However he knows when to lay it on & when to leave off & let the story carry you along. However it is a bit over-long as a result. A follow- up would be great but I doubt that there is now the tension/ opportunity of new ground etc. to write an account such as this.
  AndrewCapey | Jul 17, 2014 |
Details the inklings and eventual advent of the space program from breaking the sound barrier to Project Mercury to the decision to land a man on the moon, all told in Wolfe's... delightful style. Structured around the military test pilots who daily risked their lives pushing the boundaries of human achievement - oozing the right stuff. Hooray for the Cold War? I could be pretty easily convinced that without it, there wouldn't be a space program. ( )
  dandelionroots | Jul 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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Within five minutes, or ten minutes, no more than that, three of the others had called her on the telephone to ask her if she had heard that something had happened out there.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427565, Paperback)

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. Chuck Yeager was certainly among the fastest, and his determination to push through Mach 1--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. 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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:57 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A narrative of the early days of the U.S. space program and the people who made it happen, including Chuck Yeager, Pete Conrad, Gus Grissom, and John Glenn.

(summary from another edition)

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