Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins
OK, so I already confessed a general admiration of Michael Collins.
That was before I read his book.
Now I am quite simply unbearably fond of him.
The man can write. He’s smart, he’s funny, he can turn a phrase, he’s an astronaut! Dear heaven.
And here he is (2nd from left), accompanied (from left) by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and some jowly guy I don’t recognize.
(Photo credit: NASA)
I took this book on vacation, began reading it on the plane, and Could Not Stop. Then, did the unthinkable: bought a copy at the Air & Space gift shop. Even though I had a library copy with me on the trip! Even though I do not buy books; I borrow them!
Here’s why this book is fabulous and worth dropping $16 on:
First, of all, the writing is simply lovely. It’s conversational, easy, and smart.
Second, the tone is perfect: self-deprecating, humorous, and upbeat.
“It is perhaps a pity that my eyes have seen more than my brain has been able to assimilate or evaluate, but like the Druids at Stonehenge, I have attempted to bring order out of what I have observed, even if I have not understood it fully.
Unfortunately, my feelings cannot be conveyed by the clever arrangement of stone pillars. I am condemned to the use of words. I know, because after the flight of Gemini 10, I tried to use paint, and it was a total flop.” (p. 474)
And third, the subject matter can’t be beat. For the love of Mike (OK, pun intended), he was on the first mission to land humans on the moon! And before that, he was a test pilot. And in between, he flew on one of the Gemini missions. This book is packed with anecdotes and details that give us a window into the astronauts’ world.
But truly, it’s the man’s voice. It comes across, loud and clear. No, quiet and clear.
And so… a big event has just happened here. I’ve added this one to my “Top 10 Favorite Book” list.
And it ain’t just me: Harry Hurt III (author of the fine book For All Mankind) mentions Carrying the Fire as the most poetic book written by an astronaut.
S0 — here’s Michael Collins earlier this year, speaking at Air & Space (the museum where he served as director when the museum opened in 1976)…