The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
triumphant, character-driven, family
McCullough is one of my guys. Two of his books appear in my blog banner, which
I realized only when I was reading his latest, about the Wright brothers.
|(courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)
Wilbur and Orville, we go back a ways, too.
years, I’ve gotten all misty-eyed and boring at cocktail parties* every
December 17, because I regale anyone within earshot with the news that it’s the
umpteenth anniversary of the first powered flight.
I say the words “Kitty Hawk”
and “Kill Devil Hills.”
I say the words “muslin-covered wings” and “wind tunnel.”
I speak in awestruck tones about seeing the Wright Flyer at the Air and Space Museum.
the life of any party.
book had me all in a flutter. The
flutter was worth the while.
is a wonderfully comforting writer, who is a master of his craft. His sentences
other thing that makes him comforting is that he tends to tell the heroic
stories, in a tone that’s relatively wart-free. He’s not out to tell how the
Wright’s competitors tried to make them out as mean-spirited moneygrubbers
whose protection of their patents bordered on the obsessive.
book is about their hard work and their triumph. And it’s very much about their
personalities and their family.
man married, and they lived with their father and sister. Which sounds kind of
horrid, except that it sounds like they had rather a happy home life.
were quiet fellows who largely kept to themselves, at least until fame struck.
are quiet, wonderful moments like this one, when Wilbur was about to take off
on a demo flight in France:
at six-thirty, with dusk settling, Wilbur turned his cap backward, and to Berg,
Bolée, and the others said quietly, ‘Gentlemen, I’m going to fly.’” (p.
those words made me stop and clap a hand against the center of my chest and do
the heartstruck look.
is a pleasant, talented author, and he’s writing about these quirky fellows
whom he finds pleasant and talented himself, so it’s a whirlwind of goodness.
despite the theme of flight, McCullough keeps it down to earth:
nephew Milton, who as a boy was often hanging about the brothers, would one day
write, “History was being made in their bicycle shop and in their home, but the
making was so obscured by the commonplace that I did not recognize it until
many years later.’” (p 113)
heroic, and stoic.
cocktail parties like the plague. But anywhere else I am, I bore people with
this December 17 business. Avoid me on that date.