Flight the Wright way

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
3 words:
triumphant, character-driven, family
David
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)
Me and
Wilbur and Orville, we go back a ways, too. 
For
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.
I’m seriously
the life of any party.
So this
book had me all in a flutter. The
flutter was worth the while.
McCullough
is a wonderfully comforting writer, who is a master of his craft. His sentences
just flow.
The
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.
No, this
book is about their hard work and their triumph. And it’s very much about their
personalities and their family.
Neither
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.
And they
were quiet fellows who largely kept to themselves, at least until fame struck.
So there
are quiet, wonderful moments like this one, when Wilbur was about to take off
on a demo flight in France:
“Finally,
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.
170)   
Reading
those words made me stop and clap a hand against the center of my chest and do
the heartstruck look.
So,
yeah.
McCullough
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.
And
despite the theme of flight, McCullough keeps it down to earth:
“Their
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)
Warm,
heroic, and stoic.
*I avoid
cocktail parties like the plague. But anywhere else I am, I bore people with
this December 17 business. Avoid me on that date.

by

Reader, librarian, & happy little geek

4 thoughts on “Flight the Wright way

  1. I've always wanted to read a good biography about the Wright brothers. (I read all the kid books I could find about them when I was growing up. Them, and Annie Oakley.) I'll have to check this one out. 🙂 Great review!

  2. Nice review, Unruly…I have had my eye on this book…it just arrived at the county library. I've joined both the city and county libraries. Got my bases covered.

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