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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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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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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