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 traveling 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.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1979
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