A slim, straightforward addition to the record of space travel.

APOLLO PILOT

THE MEMOIR OF ASTRONAUT DONN EISELE

A posthumous memoir gives an unsung astronaut his due.

In the annals of manned space flight, Donn Eisele (1930-1987) would seem to be the forgotten man, his name not as recognizable as that of crewmates Wally Schirra and Walt Cunningham, let alone John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Yet the author was a member of Apollo 7, the first manned mission in the Apollo program following the tragic launch that had killed their predecessors. Well after his death, his widow shared some artifacts that included various drafts of a memoir, mainly focusing on his formative experiences in becoming an astronaut and his vivid impressions of the historic mission. Yet the book also suggests his bitterness at being marginalized in the aftermath of the mission and the tensions between the astronauts and those on the ground, particularly those more concerned with the public image of the space program than with safety. He calls the launch-pad fire that took the lives of the three original Apollo astronauts “so preventable, so unnecessary—almost criminal.” He presents Schirra as something of a prima donna, but all three crewmembers shared some suspicion and disdain toward those they felt were more concerned with timetables, budgets, and public image than with sharing responsibility with the astronauts who had more actual experience. Eisele writes of the need to keep the astronauts’ constant philandering secret and of the willing young women who were passed from one astronaut to the next. As the first astronaut to divorce, shortly after returning from space, he soon realized that he had no future with NASA. He was “very bitter about his treatment,” according to his second wife, who says that not a single friend from the tightly knit astronaut community attended their wedding. Because astronauts aren’t necessarily writers, even those with extraordinary experiences have trouble rendering them as more than, “I’m free! I’m floating! What a feeling!” But now those feelings are attached to a name barely mentioned in historical accounts.

A slim, straightforward addition to the record of space travel.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8032-6283-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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