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The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

The Right Stuff (original 1979; edition 2008)

by Tom Wolfe (Author)

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3,609522,248 (4.21)129
The true story of Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton - the seven men chosen for the Mercury Project manned space flight program in the U.S.
Title:The Right Stuff
Authors:Tom Wolfe (Author)
Info:Picador (2008), Edition: Second Edition, Revised, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1979)

Recently added bypaswanson, private library, pedro.68, PCCLIB104, DonEzy, SleepySheep, jpbronco, cwbol, Unplugging
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    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).
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    Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly (JenniferRobb)
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    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.
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    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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English (47)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I've seen the movie version of this multiple times but it's been many years. A friend of mine recommended this audio edition and I decided to read it when I figured out it would count for my nonfiction challenge 'Book by a Journalist' category.

At the beginning, I wasn't too sure about Dennis Quaid's narration. Quaid played Gordon Cooper in the movie so having him do the narration seemed to feel right. The problem was that at times, he seemed a bit over exuberant and other times the volume of his voice would drop and it seemed like he was swallowing his words. I stuck with it and fairly quickly got used to his narration style and I'm glad I listened to it rather than reading a print edition. Wolfe's writing style is almost conversational so having someone narrate it in the way Qauid chose to makes sense.

Although I knew much of the story from the movie and other sources, I still enjoyed hearing it. It made me want to watch the movie again. It's a classic in nonfiction about spaceflight and well worth a read. Wolfe has taken some valid criticism for his implications that Gus Grissom was at fault for the hatch blowing after splashdown of his Mercury capsule. Take that portion of the book with a grain of salt because it's at odds with what is now considered true. ( )
1 vote SuziQoregon | Oct 21, 2019 |
I enjoyed this book, it was quite engrossing. Tom Wolfe really draws you in with his style. I can see why it made the list of Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century.

Basically this book is about the first astronauts and how they were up against the Russians for Space Superiority. They were heroes, lauded for an ineffable ... thing that Wolfe calls "The Right Stuff." It wasn't quite courage, but it was up there. Some kind of indescribable manliness; an attitude that you could go and fly this plane or rocket, endanger your own life, and do it again for the sheer joy that such a risk brought you. It was really good. They talked about Chuck Yeager, and all those guys at Edwards Air Force Base and such, and it was pretty cool. Finally, the aura faded and NASA and space missions become another ho-hum thing. Something that shows in the news, but the Astronauts aren't lauded as heroes anymore.

I also didn't know about how the first astronauts were initially treated, or if all of that stuff that happened during the testing was sensationalized or not, but I wouldn't like to have to jump through all those hoops for space travel. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
I first read this book about 20 years ago when I was really obsessed with space and convinced that I would one day become an astronaut. The former of those two things has not changed, but I've become much more realistic about the almost zero chance of the latter. I wanted to re-read this book and see how I'd feel now that I'm a pilot and also now that I just have 20 years more life under my belt in general.

I recall having really loved this book, and I still really loved this book. It's easy to read, and it's fun to read. I had a hard time putting it down and got resentful of my hairdresser for being ready for me early when I hadn't finished reading a sentence yet. The story of the origins of the space program are compelling, I found myself rooting for all of the test pilots and astronauts in this story, and feeling suspense about events that happened so many years ago that the outcomes are common knowledge (at least for space nerds such as myself).

However (you all knew that word was coming), I know that any narrative interpretation of the early space program (this book is mostly about the Mercury project with emphasis on the first few flights, and some narrative on the X-1 and X-15/X-20 projects) is going to be colored with bias, incomplete information, and just plain old story telling. This is no exception. Other reviewers lambast Wolfe for his biased takes on some of the astronauts. I do not take this book to be gospel truth, but a literary interpretation of the events that happened. More importantly, this book is a literary interpretation of the inner workings of test pilots and the first astronauts, hence the title: The Right Stuff.

I have to say, I hate The Right Stuff attitude. The FAA has literally defined some hazardous attitudes (such things that can and probably will get you into a possibly life-threatening situation when you're behind the stick and rudder of an aircraft) and two of them are: "macho" and "invulnerability." Sound familiar? Not to mention the toxic masculinity that kept (and continues to keep) women away from aviation and the space program that also caused and continues to cause problems for men. (What does it say about you as a man if you can't make it to the top of that pyramid? Or even half way up? That can't be a fun way to view your worth as a human.)

I don't fault the book for being about The Right Stuff. It is what it is, I don't hate the book, I just hate the culture that idolizes and worships harmful stereotypes and attitudes. I don't even think that Wolfe idolizes and glorifies this Right Stuff attitude as much as he just spelled out the way things were, and that's just the way things were. I'm grateful that we're (slowly) moving away from such a flawed outlook toward the understanding that people are humans and we are what we are. ( )
1 vote lemontwist | Apr 19, 2019 |
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. SOFT
  JRCornell | Jan 30, 2019 |
Wolfe's history of the mystique of aviation in the early days of supersonic flight and the entry of the U.S. into the space race via the Mercury program, is fascinating reading. Never sappy and often cynical, the honest drama still shines through.

Wolfe paints test pilots like the inimitable Chuck Yeager, and the Mercury 7 astronauts, with a clear and unromanticized reality, yet manages to effectively discuss the Single Combat theory and apply it to these 20th century gladiators, while taking frequent healthy swipes at the reality of career military men and the women whose status rises and falls in lockstep with their husbands' achievements.

"Must" reading for anyone interested in the early days of NASA and the state of military aviation in the mid-20th century. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Dec 14, 2018 |
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