Monday, November 03, 2008

Literary Journalism takes a look at 'The Right Stuff'

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Literary Journalism will take a look at Tom Wolfe's book about the beginnings of the U.S. space program - The Right Stuff - for the next week or so.

Wolfe's style - a classic in the Literary Journalism genre - shines through in this book as he puts the reader right inside the capsules of the first U.S. astronauts.

Wolfe was around the astronauts a lot during those days, 'immersing' in the culture as Literary Journalists are wont to do.

Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe

The highest praise for the book I have ever heard comes from Sanders Lamont, formerly an editor with the Modesto Bee and Sacramento Bee newspapers (and others) who was writing about the space program in those days and had met many of the astronauts and characters in the book.

"He got it right," Sanders has told me several times.

From a journalist who was there, on the ground writing objective news stories at the same time as Wolfe was putting the Literary Journalism interpretation on events, that is high praise indeed.

I once had an encounter with the famous Chuck Yeager. Yeager was never an astronaut per se, but a hot-shot test pilot who broke the sound barrier and who figures prominently in The Right Stuff. By the time I met him, I was an editor at The Union newspaper in Grass Valley and Yeager was retired, living on some property in nearby Penn Valley. He still had an attitude - and ego - as big as a house.

It didn't go well, but that's another story.