Heroes of the Space Race

The Right Stuff: A Novel by Tom Wolfe

Is it fact? Is it fiction? Look out, folks – it’s… a nonfiction novel. I kept wondering how much was made up, but then I got over it and just read, realizing that “New Journalism” works for me. What a whopping good book. The grand old men of the space race feature here… back when they were quite young men, and ready to take on the moon and stars. This is where I first fell for John Glenn. The other original Mercury astronauts are here, plus Chuck Yeager; all are young, frightfully fearless, and could land any aircraft anywhere with their eyes shut. Wolfe’s writing about the lives (and deaths) of test pilots will stay will stay with me always, as will his description of the scene where Annie Glenn had a stand-off with Lyndon B. Johnson. (Truth: stranger – and more wondrous – than fiction!) Wolfe evokes the intense patriotism and hero worship that Americans felt about these men. There’s a neat edition of the book called The Right Stuff: Illustrated, which, as one might expect, contains oodles of photos. It’s terrific, except that I found it difficult to read because of the format of the pages. So my recommendation is to read the un-illustrated version, then check out the illustrated edition from the library just for the photos.