counter create hit The Right Stuff (Vintage Classics) - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Right Stuff (Vintage Classics)

Availability: Ready to download

A wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's manned space program, from the author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY US ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY‘What is it’ asks Tom Wolfe, ‘that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle…and wait for someone to light the fuse?’ Arrogance? Stupidity? Bravery? Courage? Or, simply, that A wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's manned space program, from the author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY US ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY‘What is it’ asks Tom Wolfe, ‘that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle…and wait for someone to light the fuse?’ Arrogance? Stupidity? Bravery? Courage? Or, simply, that quality we call 'the right stuff'?A monument to the men who battled to beat the Russians into space, The Right Stuff is a voyage into the mythology of the American space program, and a dizzying dive into the sweat, fear, beauty and danger of being on the white-hot edge of history in the making. ‘Tom Wolfe at his very best… Learned, cheeky, risky, touching, tough, compassionate, nostalgic, worshipful, jingoistic... The Right Stuff is superb’ - New York Times Book Review


Compare
Ads Banner

A wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's manned space program, from the author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY US ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY‘What is it’ asks Tom Wolfe, ‘that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle…and wait for someone to light the fuse?’ Arrogance? Stupidity? Bravery? Courage? Or, simply, that A wildly vivid and entertaining chronicle of America's manned space program, from the author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY US ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY‘What is it’ asks Tom Wolfe, ‘that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle…and wait for someone to light the fuse?’ Arrogance? Stupidity? Bravery? Courage? Or, simply, that quality we call 'the right stuff'?A monument to the men who battled to beat the Russians into space, The Right Stuff is a voyage into the mythology of the American space program, and a dizzying dive into the sweat, fear, beauty and danger of being on the white-hot edge of history in the making. ‘Tom Wolfe at his very best… Learned, cheeky, risky, touching, tough, compassionate, nostalgic, worshipful, jingoistic... The Right Stuff is superb’ - New York Times Book Review

30 review for The Right Stuff (Vintage Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This would have been a superb book but for Wolfe's puzzling decision to libel astronaut Gus Grissom. Sadly, between the book and its movie adaptation, Wolfe's distortions are probably all that most people know about Grissom (assuming of course that they remember any astronaut other than Neil Armstrong in the first place). Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, and the second to go into space. After his capsule splashed down, its hatch blew before the recovery helicopter arrived This would have been a superb book but for Wolfe's puzzling decision to libel astronaut Gus Grissom. Sadly, between the book and its movie adaptation, Wolfe's distortions are probably all that most people know about Grissom (assuming of course that they remember any astronaut other than Neil Armstrong in the first place). Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, and the second to go into space. After his capsule splashed down, its hatch blew before the recovery helicopter arrived and the spacecraft sank, marring a near-flawless mission. No one was able to determine the cause of the incident (even after the capsule was recovered from the ocean floor thirty years later) but the universal consensus among NASA's engineers and astronauts was that mechanical failure couldn't be ruled out, and that Grissom deserved the benefit of the doubt. For some reason, Wolfe decided that Grissom, despite having been a combat veteran and despite the fact that the most dangerous stages of the mission (launch and re-entry) were behind him, had panicked and blown the hatch himself. He also insinuates that the souvenirs Grissom had brought along (a few rolls of coins and some keychain-sized models of the capsule) had somehow contributed to Grissom's nearly drowning (in fact air had been escaping from a valve -- that he admitted he had forgotten to close -- reducing his buoyancy). Wolfe cynically adds that NASA covered up Grissom's blunders in the interest of protecting its public image. In reality, there's no evidence for Wolfe's position. Even the curmudgeonly Flight Director Chris Kraft, whose autobiography shows no reluctance to tear into other astronauts, has steadfastly maintained that Grissom wasn't at fault. The clearest evidence of Grissom's blamelessness is the fact that he was chosen to command the first Gemini mission and the first manned Apollo mission. If NASA's administration had believed that Grissom was incompetent, there would have been no need for them to make any embarrassing public admissions; they could have asked him to resign "for personal reasons," or they could have kept him on salary while simply not assigning him to any new missions. A lesser flaw with the book is that Wolfe presents his opinions as facts, regarding the meaning of "the right stuff," and the meaning of the public's adoration of the Mercury Seven, but these flaws are easier to overlook. And having said all that, this is an otherwise compelling look at the early days of manned space exploration, at the glory days of Edwards Air Force Base, and at the test pilots who first broke the sound barrier and went on to fly rocket planes to the edge of space.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Updated May 15, 2018: RIP, Tom Wolfe... reading this book was such an eye-opener. You were a true original. I'll never forget the pure pleasure I had reading this book, as well as the great satire that was, that is, Bonfire Of The Vanities. *** Yee-hawwww!!! Tom Wolfe's 1979 book about the American space race is a high-octane non-fiction masterpiece. Wolfe's maximalist style – full of exclamation marks!!! ... ellipses ... and repeated italicized phrases that take on the rhythm of great jazz – is Updated May 15, 2018: RIP, Tom Wolfe... reading this book was such an eye-opener. You were a true original. I'll never forget the pure pleasure I had reading this book, as well as the great satire that was, that is, Bonfire Of The Vanities. *** Yee-hawwww!!! Tom Wolfe's 1979 book about the American space race is a high-octane non-fiction masterpiece. Wolfe's maximalist style – full of exclamation marks!!! ... ellipses ... and repeated italicized phrases that take on the rhythm of great jazz – is perfectly suited to his gargantuan, ego-driven, patriotic, rah-rah subject matter. He has a voice like no one else's, and although he obviously did tons of research, he imparts his facts clearly and gets inside the heads of the scientists, astronauts and their wives like a great novelist. His narrator is part anthropologist, part satirist, part historian, and nothing escapes his eye. Even if you've seen the terrific Philip Kaufman film, I highly recommend reading this ridiculously entertaining and informative book that tells you a lot about the space program, the Cold War, the rise of mass media, gender roles and even (near the end) the race issue. And just for fun, try reading some passages aloud. It's – excuse the pun – a blast.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    Treasure of the Rubbermaids 24: Rocket Men The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. If you, a 21st century person, ever sees one of the old Mercury space capsules in a museum you’ll probably be amazed at how small and primitive it Treasure of the Rubbermaids 24: Rocket Men The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. If you, a 21st century person, ever sees one of the old Mercury space capsules in a museum you’ll probably be amazed at how small and primitive it seems. (Whatever device you’re reading this on right now has more computing power than all of NASA had at the time.) 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. Your next thought might be, “What kind of fool would have volunteered to strap himself into that on top of a giant cylinder filled with highly combustible fuel and ride it out of the atmosphere?” To understand that you can read The Right Stuff. This isn’t some dry account of the early days of America’s space program filled with dates and scientific facts. In fact, if that’s the kind of history you’re looking for then you’d probably find this disappointing. 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. Wolfe starts by explaining what the ‘right stuff’ is by taking us back to late ‘40s when a hotshot test pilot named Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. 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. What adds to his legend is that he got the injury in a drunken horse riding accident the night before and hid it from his superiors for fear they’d replace him on the flight. That’s the kind of thing that shows that Yeager had the right stuff practically dripping out of his pores and put him at the top of the test pilot pyramid. Yet when the Soviets launched Sputnik and America scrambled to catch up Yeager wasn’t seriously considered as an astronaut candidate, and to many of the other test pilots who were setting speed records and pushing the boundary of space anyhow in their rocket propelled aircraft it was only a matter of time until they'd be flying into space anyhow. 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. This led to the egghead scientists taking a backseat while a more military mindset of operational performance became the yardstick that determined a mission’s success. 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. For example, rather than tell us what was happening on the ground during flights Wolfe sticks to what was going through the astronaut’s head at the time so that something like John Glenn finding out that his heat shield may have been loose comes to us as a realization that he had rather than giving us the full picture of what was going on. 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. It’s also frequently very funny. There’s a great sequence near the beginning about how if you find yourself on an airline flight with a problem and the captain on the intercom explains how there is nothing to worry about in a calm southern drawl it’s a direct result of generations of pilots imitating Chuck Yeager’s accent over the radio to mimic his understated sense of calm. As a space geek and historical stickler I do find it lacking at a couple of points. Wolfe doesn’t give you any details about what happened to these men later so that you wouldn’t know something like Alan Shepherd would eventually be one of the men who walks on the moon after being grounded with an inner ear problem after his first flight. 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.) Wolfe uses Grissom’s heart rate which was higher than any other astronauts during their mission to strongly hint that he was in a state of near panic during his flight, and that he probably did blow the hatch despite his claims that he had done nothing wrong. In other words Grissom didn’t really have the right stuff after all according to Wolfe. It’s still unclear as to why the hatch did blow, but even back then on a subsequent mission Wally Schirra had deliberately blown his own hatch as a test and showed that the force required to do it left visible bruises on his hand while Grissom had no marks at all. I’ve also read other accounts and seen various documentaries in which other astronauts and NASA officials adamantly claim that it must have been a technical failure, not anything that Grissom did wrong. Wolfe omits all of this to leave a reader with a very strong impression that Grissom ‘screwed the pooch’. This seems especially unfair in that Grissom wasn’t alive to defend himself when the book came out since he had died in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire which also killed two other astronauts. (It’s a bitter irony that they couldn’t get out because the hatch of that spacecraft was badly designed so that it couldn’t be opened when the fire occurred.) Despite some flaws, it’s still a fantastic read that really digs into the idea of how the macho code of these men was sometimes a crippling burden, it was also maybe exactly what was needed to get a bunch of guys to willingly climb into rockets. I also highly recommend the movie adaptation although it’s more of an emotional story than historically accurate.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth K.

    Good GRIEF, somebody please remind me about this the next time I think I will read a Tom Wolfe book. I seem to read one about every 15 years and in between I forget what an unpleasant experience I find it. I cannot! Take! 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 Good GRIEF, somebody please remind me about this the next time I think I will read a Tom Wolfe book. I seem to read one about every 15 years and in between I forget what an unpleasant experience I find it. I cannot! Take! 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. Grade: I don't even know. Recommended: 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Back when I was a kid, I watched The Right Stuff. And while that really dates me, it also sparked my fascination with the OTHER side of the science fiction coin. You know, REALITY and the real men and women doing real science. 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 Back when I was a kid, I watched The Right Stuff. And while that really dates me, it also sparked my fascination with the OTHER side of the science fiction coin. You know, REALITY and the real men and women doing real science. 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. Maybe not directly, because I'm only NOW just reading it, but I got the awe and the fascination for the Space Program from it. So what about the book, man? Oh! 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... and when these PEOPLE became too old or the initial fire dimmed, so did the Race to Space. 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. Excitement. 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jim Rossi

    I've probably read over a thousand books - I just earned my MA in History and am a writer who's headed to UC Berkeley in the fall - and The Right Stuff, along with the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, are in my top 10. Exhilarating, uncanny, and - unusual for Wolfe - concise. The man's range as a writer - going from drug-fueled hippie rebellion to death-defying test pilots with unquestioned loyalty to the state - remains virtually unprecedented. I'm re-examining Wolfe's body of work as I finish my I've probably read over a thousand books - I just earned my MA in History and am a writer who's headed to UC Berkeley in the fall - and The Right Stuff, along with the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, are in my top 10. Exhilarating, uncanny, and - unusual for Wolfe - concise. The man's range as a writer - going from drug-fueled hippie rebellion to death-defying test pilots with unquestioned loyalty to the state - remains virtually unprecedented. I'm re-examining Wolfe's body of work as I finish my first book, "The Case of the Cleantech Con Artist: A True Vegas Tale."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Catch-up Review 2 of 4: So this was a buddy read among the pantsless, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Unfortunately, for me, it was more of a failure to launch than a successful mission. (See what I did there?) I WANTED to like this. I wanted to learn about the men who made this mission, the ones brave enough to leave the planet and try to land on the moon, the ones that clearly had cojones the size of beachballs (that's the "right stuff" - spoiler alert)... but I could not Catch-up Review 2 of 4: So this was a buddy read among the pantsless, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Unfortunately, for me, it was more of a failure to launch than a successful mission. (See what I did there?) I WANTED to like this. I wanted to learn about the men who made this mission, the ones brave enough to leave the planet and try to land on the moon, the ones that clearly had cojones the size of beachballs (that's the "right stuff" - spoiler alert)... but I could not make it past the writing to get there. This shit is DATED. The writing is... not good. At all. Chocked full to the brim with exclamation points and italicized emphasis, and reiterations and repetition and regurgitation and repeating the same thing again just maybe one or two dozen more times to make sure that you REALLY FUCKING GET IT... and that's just the abysmal editing, really. The tone and style was also extremely problematic to me. On the one hand, Tom Wolfe is pulling zero punches when it comes to describing these pilots and the danger they constantly faced during their test flights. He describes very clearly the risks they encountered every single day, and not only lived with, but THRIVED under. But, on the other hand, at some point he crossed the line from "healthy respect" into "gleefully macabre". The way that he would go into gruesome, unnecessary detail when it came to jet crashes, and what happens to the pilot in them - not only in general terms, but minute detailing of the death, the smell of the burning, and the texture and the appearance of the corpse afterward... it just came across as being exciting to him. Which is super fucked up. One part in particular really bothered me in this way, and it was extremely offensive to me how he portrayed it. Now, I should just add a quick note here that I have family in the military, and I respect those who serve, even if it might be for reasons I disagree with, but I am not one who blindly waves the "support our troops" flag or thinks anyone in uniform is sacred or something. I can even walk by a uniformed person and NOT thank them for their service. (It's crazy, I know.) So, I think it should say something that I was super fucking offended by the way that Wolfe portrayed the death of one of these men who died on duty. It was gratuitous, completely unnecessary, and actually pissed me off because of how irreverently and excitedly he wrote about it. Granted, the surviving pilots would have had to distance themselves from the understanding that it could be them crashing and burning at any time... so they made light of it, didn't dwell on it, victim blamed that it was pilot error they'd never make, etc. But they were the ones who still had to go up in a plane the next day. Their attitude was understandable to me. Wolfe's was not. This is nonfiction. These men were real people. They were someone's son. Someone's father. Someone's husband. Someone's brother, or cousin, or friend. He used these men's gruesome deaths to feed his fucking gleeful gore fetish and it made me mad. The scene where the pilot bailed out and his parachute didn't open... we all know what that means. We get it. We understand what an 8100 foot direct freefall onto concrete, while strapped into a pilot seat, will do to a human body. There's no need to write what he wrote. There just isn't. The attitude and tone he chose to go with is disgusting. These were REAL PEOPLE, not Saw IV characters. I understand that this pilot would have been alive but unable to do anything about his fate. But rather than acknowledging that and being respectful of the terror of his situation in his last moments, and the dedication it takes to know, every single day, that this could be your last, (and you know that despite all their talk and bravado, every single one of these men did know that,) Wolfe goes the complete other way and reduces this person to "a bag of fertilizer". LITERALLY. How fucking disrespectful. How insulting. How cruel to his family to write something like that into a book for posterity. That shit sickened me, not because of the description, but because of the condescending attitude of the shitty ass author who wrote it. Fuck that guy. Now, I think it's likely that he was trying to "be one of the guys" and act as cavalier about death as they had to be... but he wasn't "one of the guys". He was writing about them, interviewing them, and portraying THEIR story to readers who have no idea what that life is like. The author, a good author, would take all of that and clarify it, and present it in a way that doesn't change or take away from the experiences and interviews, but makes it feel real and substantial without being cruel about it. This just did not work for me. And then there's this: "By 1949 the girls had begun turning up at Pancho's in amazing numbers. They were young, lovely, juicy, frisky—and there were so many of them, at all hours, every day of the week! And they were not prostitutes, despite the accusations made later. They were just… well, just young juicy girls in their twenties with terrific young conformations and sweet cupcakes and loamy loins. They were sometimes described with a broad sweep as "stewardesses," but only a fraction of them really were. No, they were lovely young things who arrived as mysteriously as the sea gulls who sought the squirming shrimp. They were moist labial piping little birds who had somehow learned that at this strange place in the high Mojave lived the hottest young pilots in the world and that this was where things were happening." Oh no no no no. Nope. NOPE. I get that he's TRYING to represent how these guys would have seen the women... but at the point he wrote it, he was an almost-50-year-old-man talking about girls barely out of their teens. Fucking gross. That shit probably makes Bill Cosby cringe. That was definitely the worst... that I read. I Noped out pretty much at that point, but that definitely was not the first time it was pretty gross in the sexism sector. The incredibly casual sexism of the time was on full display, and I just... couldn't do it. It wasn't all bad. Chapter 4 was pretty good. I wish I could remember at this point what was IN chapter 4, but after well over a month of this just sitting around... all I can think of was the really, really bad stuff. OH! I just remembered. It was the chapter in which the pilots were all being tested for the super secret mission, and none of them knew what they were being tested for. (At this point they were all just regular jet pilots - nobody had any thought of going to space at all.) Still, I wouldn't recommend anyone NOT read it. I would just forewarn you that you'll want to keep your sickbag handy and your hand on the ejector seat button, as it is likely to get a bit bumpy and you may need to bail out. I would recommend that you keep your seatbelt fastened at all times, and in the event of a drop in cabin pressure resulting in a loss of consciousness, well... at least you'd know your fate. Wolfe will have described it to you in all its gleeful detail.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Tom Wolfe's big and beautiful nonfiction romp makes for an absolutely A+ audiobook listen. 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, Tom Wolfe's big and beautiful nonfiction romp makes for an absolutely A+ audiobook listen. 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Strömquist

    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 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 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 20-30 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-104 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!) this would be brilliant. As it is, it's well worth reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Optimist ♰King's Wench♰

    Alright... well... how do I say this? 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? All. Day. Baby. 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. I also had NO IDEA Alright... well... how do I say this? 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? All. Day. Baby. 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. I also had NO IDEA the Air Force tried to compete with NASA and develop their own 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. *slinks away*

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    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 going up day after day in high performance jets that are trying their level best to kill you-and statistically will kill 23% of pilots in peacetime-and pushing them to the edge of the envelope and beyond. It's about sitting 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 going up day after day in high performance jets that are trying their level best to kill you-and statistically will kill 23% of pilots in peacetime-and pushing them to the edge of the envelope and beyond. 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. It's Flying & Drinking and Drinking & Driving and Dicing with Death and doing anything to climb the pure pyramid of macho essence. 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 saga 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Delee

    How could I turn down an offer to Buddy-read The Right Stuff- with the Pant-less wonders....when they asked so nicely? Ɗẳɳ 2., Ron Swanson is my spirit animal (Jun 19, 2019 09:32AM)- Well, what I'd like is to see you (Becky) and Licha team up on Delee, and convince her to read The Right Stuff. I bet you could trick her into opening the door to her boat by using a trained raccoon to create some sorta commotion. Then when she steps over the threshold, grab her arm and twist it behind her back, while How could I turn down an offer to Buddy-read The Right Stuff- with the Pant-less wonders....when they asked so nicely? Ɗẳɳ 2.☊, Ron Swanson is my spirit animal (Jun 19, 2019 09:32AM)- Well, what I'd like is to see you (Becky) and Licha team up on Delee, and convince her to read The Right Stuff. I bet you could trick her into opening the door to her boat by using a trained raccoon to create some sorta commotion. Then when she steps over the threshold, grab her arm and twist it behind her back, while Licha gives her a few rabbit punches to the kidneys. Lead her back inside, maybe give her a few swirlies, while asking her who does #2 work for. Then tie her to a chair and get . . . creative. I'd imagine if you pull out a straight razor, turn on some Stealers Wheel - Stuck in the Middle with You, and start dancing around her chair, she'll agree to anything, right quick!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Marcher

    Something about Tom Wolfe's prose (rest his soul) is so unfriendly yet so inviting, so dry yet so wry, so pedantic yet so accessible. It's indescribable. It'd be easier to say that Tom simply had The Right Stuff.

  14. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    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 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The Very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff, that Righteous, Righteous stuff, the Indefinable, Unutterable, Integral Stuff. 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 1940'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 The Very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff, that Righteous, Righteous stuff, the Indefinable, Unutterable, Integral Stuff. 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 1940'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!), the astronauts' grumbles and gripes, the astronauts' allegiance to Mom and apple pie!, the astronaut's - uh - groupies?? 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 1999. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Way back in 1979, 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. But don’t let the narrative’s 33 year-old publishing fool you. 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 Way back in 1979, 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. But don’t let the narrative’s 33 year-old publishing fool you. 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 California to the new space centers at Cape Canaveral and Houston, this story is packed full of colorful topics, including early spaceflights, astronaut rivalries and astronaut wives, the end of the golden age of flight, and the author’s chosen super-pilot, Chuck Yeager. Much of the work’s magic comes from the wondrous way in which Wolfe blended teaching and entertaining. He delved into the concept of the “righteous stuff,” perhaps understood to be cool bravery, which the author suggested separated the best pilots from everyone else. 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. It’s as much an examination of American culture as a history book. But throughout, the pace never slows, the read never grows dull, and the text’s amusing wit and charm never fails. Among other fun techniques, Wolfe employed a unique stylistic repetition of his favorite words and key phrases. Page after page sees reference to the “single combat warrior,” “flying and drinking and drinking and driving,” “our rockets always blow up,” “wipe away a tear,” “the mighty [Soviet] Integral,” move “up the ziggurat,” “the little Indians,” “West Virginia drawl,” and of course “the right stuff.” This curious practice bolstered his commentary while often acting the part of a fun delivery device for humor and amusement in a non-fiction book. For the first time in memory, I don’t have a single negative comment or complaint to make about a book. 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. As a history fan, I’ve never encountered a non-fiction work as much fun as this and can’t find the right stuff to do it justice now. Additionally, if you haven’t seen it, there is a great movie made in the early 1980s, bearing the same name and closely adapted from this incredible book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    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. While I don't always understand why the NASA 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. While I don't always understand why the NASA administrators fought astronauts (Deke Slayton), I really didn't get why Wolfe seems to have gone after Gus Grissom. I look forward to reading a recent bio of him (Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom) this year for a better story. Overall rating, a solid Mach 4. I plan to rewatch the film also - it's been decades. Addendum June 2017 - read the referenced biography and another book on the early space program (Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965). 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. 3½ stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alain DeWitt

    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 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 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-15 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-15 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: I! can't! remember! ever! reading! a! book! with! quite! so! many! exclamation! points!

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    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. 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 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Hinde

    This book genuinely gets the adrenaline pumping. There's a scene where Chuck Yeager takes an NF-104 up to 110,000 feet (about 10 miles into "space"), then looses control and goes into a spin, plummeting to 20,000 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?) on his face and hand. He fights through the intense pain of melting eyeball to free up the parachute and land This book genuinely gets the adrenaline pumping. There's a scene where Chuck Yeager takes an NF-104 up to 110,000 feet (about 10 miles into "space"), then looses control and goes into a spin, plummeting to 20,000 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?) on his face and hand. 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Albom

    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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    This is one of the few movies I've seen, but so long ago I barely remember it. What I did remember was Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. I grew up in Southern California and remember those frequent sonic booms. Part of this story is of the men who flew those flights. It is also the story of the first seven astronauts. It is just about as opposite as you can get of my recent read, Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Somewhere recently I read "Tom This is one of the few movies I've seen, but so long ago I barely remember it. What I did remember was Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. I grew up in Southern California and remember those frequent sonic booms. Part of this story is of the men who flew those flights. It is also the story of the first seven astronauts. It is just about as opposite as you can get of my recent read, Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Somewhere recently I read "Tom Wolfe can write!" Such a statement is definitely not over promising what happens between the covers. The writing style was the first thing I noticed and even if I had not been motivated to read the subject, it would have kept me turning the pages. It would be unfair to compare his writing style to Erik Larson, but it appears they both have the ability to make nonfiction a fascinating read. The brave men who were willing to sit on top of a rocket had such different personalities and I came to appreciate them all. (I'm pretty sure Wolfe liked some better than others!) The reader is privileged to sit in the cockpit at altitude over the California desert, in the capsule atop a rocket waiting for liftoff at Cape Canaveral, and weightless in earth orbit. Wolfe does not leave out the astronaut wives and how they were thrust in the public eye. Wolfe seemed to have a healthy disrespect for the intrusive media who have little respect for the privacy of non-public people, that in order to try to get a story they could ask the most inane questions. (They still do this. "How does it feel to .....") It has been fun revisiting the space program, 50 and 60 years after inception. I am happy to give 5-stars to this view of it. Though I have no immediate plans to read another by Tom Wolfe, I'll happily find a place for him in the future.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I loved this book. I've read it at least twice, and will probably read it again someday. Wolfe takes us into the lives of the Mercury 7 astronauts before they were selected and during their training. It's been years even since my re-read, but scenes still pop into my mind while I'm writing this. To me, that makes it a really special book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike H

    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. On the other hand, there’s not a single footnote in the book, his bibliography consists of a single-digit number of works, and the author likes to make sweeping general statements that cannot possibly be backed up in any real way. But Tom Wolfe didn’t write The Right Stuff to be correct about all the historical 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. On the other hand, there’s not a single footnote in the book, his bibliography consists of a single-digit number of works, and the author likes to make sweeping general statements that cannot possibly be backed up in any real way. But Tom Wolfe didn’t write The Right Stuff to be correct about all the historical details, he wrote it to entertain and inspire, telling a marvelous tale of human ingenuity and courage while demonstrating how us normal folk respond to the presence of those extraordinary few who change history. In this sense, the book is an amalgamation of the top-down “great man” view of history and the bottom-up “everyday man” view, showing how, even in the moment, society exalts certain world-changing men and places them on a gigantic pedestal, for better or worse. Wolfe’s work traces the story of NASA’s Mercury Program, that launched the first men in space. 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. In the same way, the Mercury astronauts were exalted to a similar place in society, viewed as going into a similar form of “combat,” symbolic if not actual, against the Soviet Union in the race for control of space. 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. Wolfe bookends his story with tales of test flights by pilots such as the legendary Chuck Yeager, a man who embodied “The Right Stuff,” yet refused to join the Mercury project. Wolfe also shows that many of NASA’s achievements seem pale in comparison to the similar projects the Air Force was doing at the time. 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. Despite the fact that Wolfe’s bibliography entries can be counted on one hand, and there’s not a single footnote, and many of the claims he makes seem ridiculously over-generalized, this is still a fantastic work. 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. It’s not a history book, its a motivational story of the triumph of human ingenuity both technological and emotional. In that role, it succeeds brilliantly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lennie

    Shepard, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Carpenter, Schirra, and Slayton…these were the men chosen by NASA to be astronauts for Project Mercury, a program that put men into space for suborbital and orbital flights. They were called the “original seven” and they were considered the greatest pilots and the bravest men in America because they were pilots on the most daring flights in American history. When they accomplished their missions they became national heroes because they risked their lives for Shepard, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Carpenter, Schirra, and Slayton…these were the men chosen by NASA to be astronauts for Project Mercury, a program that put men into space for suborbital and orbital flights. They were called the “original seven” and they were considered the greatest pilots and the bravest men in America because they were pilots on the most daring flights in American history. When they accomplished their missions they became national heroes because they risked their lives for their country and for their people. They possessed courage and honor but more importantly, they had all the “right stuff”. How awesome would it be to live during this time when America was putting men in space and there was a surge of patriotism throughout the country? As I write this, the United States has retired the Space Shuttle Program and the future of space exploration is unclear so it was a pleasure for me to read this book. Tom Wolfe did an excellent job and I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the space program or anyone who just wants to read a well written nonfiction book about one of this country’s greatest achievements.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    There are few modern writers as talented as Tom Wolfe, who manages to create his own style, in addition to a depth of thought and characters, while writing in a vernacular understandable to his readers. In fact, after readingThe Right Stuff, I decided that Mr. Wolfe has earned the spot of my favorite living author. The novel opens where navy pilots push the science of flight beyond the envelope, just prior to the advent of the US Space Program. These daredevils were men of talent, grit and There are few modern writers as talented as Tom Wolfe, who manages to create his own style, in addition to a depth of thought and characters, while writing in a vernacular understandable to his readers.  In fact, after reading The Right Stuff, I decided that Mr. Wolfe has earned the spot of my favorite living author. The novel opens where navy pilots push the science of flight beyond the envelope, just prior to the advent of the US Space Program.  These daredevils were men of talent, grit and without fear - they had "the right stuff" as author Wolfe proclaims.  From these hotshots, Wolfe tells the story of breaking the sound barrier - of Chuck Yeager pushing Mach 1 in the Mojave Desert, and the daring pilots who came after him, pushing faster and faster speeds and pushing higher and higher into the earth's atmosphere.  Then, as the natural progression of flight science occurred, the advent of the Space Program.  Wolfe tells the story of the astronauts who, although they were these same men with the "right stuff," were now glorified monkeys strapped to rockets.  They needed no talent at all, just a willingness to face the danger of travelling into space. Tom Wolfe's portrayal of these men and their story was mesmerizing, humorous and a brilliant blend of literary panache and historical fact.  I wasn't old enough to remember most of these events, but I am aware of the awe and excitement that people felt during this time.  Tom Wolfe was able to carry that through to the written page.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tim Healy

    I guess that I'm a product of my age in that I'm fascinated by the space program. I love the movie they made from this book, so I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to read this. I enjoyed it immensely. Wolfe's style is engaging and easily read, although his chapters are long. It's clear that he did a lot of research with his topic, too. He manages quite well to appear to be inside the astronauts' heads. Each of them is shown with his own personality, and those are in line with my other I guess that I'm a product of my age in that I'm fascinated by the space program. I love the movie they made from this book, so I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to read this. I enjoyed it immensely. Wolfe's style is engaging and easily read, although his chapters are long. It's clear that he did a lot of research with his topic, too. He manages quite well to appear to be inside the astronauts' heads. Each of them is shown with his own personality, and those are in line with my other reading on the time and the men. What I really enjoyed was his focus on the Mercury astronauts trying to overcome the impression in their own services that they were no longer truly test pilots. By comparing and contrasting with the rocket plane pilots at Edwards, he really draws the arguments on both sides well. This, along with his understanding of the inter-relationships with the press that formed make the book an engaging commentary on history, too.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

    I tried. I made it to p 100. The concept is actually pretty interesting. I did learn quite a few things about the test pilots, there were some laughs as well as a few cringes. I just suck at reading this genre. Wolfe is not holding my attention and every time I sit down to read this book I find some way of getting a different book into my hands. I wont rate this one because I read less than half. I would honestly give it three stars. It is just not the right time for me. I suck.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Was there a more fitting subject for a maximalist writer than the space race was for Tom Wolfe? With his much-celebrated The Right Stuff the recently departed journalist/novelist/sartorialist seemed born to document this important era of American history, and the men who helped anchor it. It had been some time since I’d first read The Right Stuff; so long in fact that I can’t quite pinpoint whether it was in high school or college. What I can confirm is that it’s just as if not more impactful the Was there a more fitting subject for a maximalist writer than the space race was for Tom Wolfe? With his much-celebrated The Right Stuff the recently departed journalist/novelist/sartorialist seemed born to document this important era of American history, and the men who helped anchor it. It had been some time since I’d first read The Right Stuff; so long in fact that I can’t quite pinpoint whether it was in high school or college. What I can confirm is that it’s just as if not more impactful the second time around, Wolfe’s trademark style - one part satirical, one part historical, most parts hysterical - hardly showing any signs of age. 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. It’s a story of sudden celebrity, something not uncommon today but fascinating against of the backdrop of the analog age. TV was still in its fledgling phase, the internet was decades away. The ascension of the Mercury Seven from unknown military pilots to beloved world-changing gods was so rapid you’d swear they were Kardashians. Thankfully they didn’t behave in a similar fashion. 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. These guys were nothing short of rockstars to the average Joe yet were looked down upon by their fellow pilots; they weren’t even considered pilots at all. 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. As revolutionary as they became these were still just regular human beings for the most part; they just happened to be blessed with a certain “righteous stuff” most others were not. Their achievements and all of the hullabaloo behind them were brief yet impactful. And while most will remember the Neil Armstrongs and Buzz Aldrins of NASA’s yesteryear it was Deke and John and Al and Scott and Gordo and Gus and Wally (and by extension Yeager, of course) who made space imaginable, conquerable. 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!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.