The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff

by Tom Wolfe

Overview: Millions of words have poured forth about man's trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure; namely, what went on in the minds of the astronauts themselves - in space, on the moon, and even during certain odysseys on earth. It is this, the inner life of the astronauts, that Tom Wolfe describes with his almost uncanny empathetic powers, that made The Right Stuff a classic.

Deanna Boe (02/11/18): This book was written in 1979. It is about our adventure into the space world and the astronauts who became part of that journey. Perhaps the book was even more interesting to me because it begins with a timeframe that I can easily remember – the fifties and the sixties. When Wolfe writes about these men who were our first astronauts, their wives and families it brings about many memories for those decades and the ones to follow. It was an exciting period, not only for me in my late teens and twenties, but for the United States as a whole. I sometimes feel there will never again be anything quite like that era, and Wolfe does such an exceptional way of reminding us. It was a time when those chosen men seemed bigger then life and we were all a part of it. The original seven Mercury astronaut names are familiar to all of us who remember that era: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Virgil Grissom, Walter Scherra and Donald Slayter. To make it even more amazing was how LIFE magazine covered their lives and also their families. The articles were written in such a way that they almost seemed “god-like;” they were our heroes. All of these feelings came rushing back when reading this book by Wolfe.

Wolfe tells about test pilots and their achievements, and how they in many ways far exceeded anything the original astronauts did, but it did not hold the glory of the astronauts. For instance, how many of you remember Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier? Ironically the astronauts were not actually flying the spacecraft but simply sitting in them, observing to begin with, and doing experiments. Whereas, the test pilots were setting all kinds of records in regards to the speed of sound etc. But sitting on top of a rocket and being propelled into space simply caught all of our attention. Their biggest concern seemed to be the worry they didn’t want to screw up! They met the president (s), had ticket-tape parades, were wined and dined. One funny story involved John Glenn and his wife Annie who had Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson to their home for dinner. A friend asked Annie what she would serve them; after all they ate at all these fancy places besides the White House. Annie said she was going to serve her ham loaf, everyone always liked it and even wanted her recipe. That is what she served and not only that, Lady Bird did ask for her recipe!

This book is extremely well written. For those of us who lived in that era it brings back many wonderful memories, but for those who are younger it brings to light all that was happening at the beginning of our space program and what life was like with no cell phones or fancy TV sets to name just a few things.
Rating: *****

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