The Right Stuff Book Report by Tom Wolfe

Wolfe chronicles the development of the Mercury missions from inception to completion, and weaves together all the elements of the day that bore on he problem, from Cold War Posturing, to the political wrangling between the factions in Congress, to the ever-capricious whims of public sentiment. The many engineering hurdles, costly failures, and triumphant successes are all set down herein, as well as the petty Jealousies and personality conflicts that never saw the light of day in the era of a more discreet press bent on making heroes of the astronauts.

Often, one gets the impression that the chaos surrounding the space program could never actually get man off the ground, let alone Into orbit, despite the fact that we now they did Just that. “The Right Stuff does make for an Interesting read If you are at all interested In our space program, and the novel’s treatment of these times Is more complete than the movie’s, yet It still doesn’t quite satisfy. Wolf’s prose Is readable, and his wry sense of humor Is entertaining when he lets It bubble up Into view, but his book lacks a central Identity.

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Wolfe tries to provide a good story and a good history, but ends up with a book that wanders from one to the other without any sense of self. Written for a lay audience, It Isn’t documented at all, ND Wolfe often glosses over details or only lightly touches Important aspects of his chronicle. On the other hand, he does try to give us glimpses Into the characters and personalities of many of the astronauts, pilots, and their wives.

He never manages to make you feel as If he really knows these people, let alone that you know them. Everything reads Like third or fourth-hand Information, hearsay passed on by someone who knew a guy who had a friend who was John Glen’s cousin. Consequently, Wolf’s historical authority feels weak and uneven at the same time hat his dry, flat renderings of the principle people Involved makes the personal elements dull and lackluster.

Had Wolfe written a detailed history or a truth-based novel, either one might have worked. Instead Wolfe tried to Incorporate both elements, and ended up with neither. What makes the movie version so much better and more satisfying Is that It knew what It wanted to be. It Is a dramatic story based on real life people and events. It tells ten tale AT ten clay at ten same tale Tanat It I with the people involved. Test ten audience snare In ten drama Those with an interest in the space program should pick this book up.

There are a lot of interesting anecdotes and bits of information in this book. Historians looking for good background information should pass this one by. Everyone else should go down to Blockbuster and rent the movie if they’re not up for a good read. The movie is around 4 hours long, but well worth the $5 rental. You may even rediscover how exciting and adventurous the space program really is, instead of taking it for granted the way most Americans do these days.

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