JOHN GLENN by John Glenn


A Memoir
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Mr. Smith goes to NASA, then Washington, then NASA again. Decorated fighter pilot in two wars, first American to orbit the earth, US Senator, Presidential candidate, oldest man in space, it’s a wonderful life Glenn recalls in this earnest, workmanlike memoir written with Taylor (Healing Lessons, with Sidney Weaver, not reviewed). He clearly intends his amazing journey to affirm the Capraesque virtues of hard work, religion, and patriotism he learned while growing up in New Concord, Ohio. Only occasionally does he toss out hints of the flinty fighter-jock professionalism that, as surely as patriotism, pushed Glenn into space: —You believe you—re the best in the air. . . . If you don—t, you—d better find another line of work.— Glenn still resents the possibility that his anti-philandering warning to fellow Mercury astronauts (recounted with predictably more verve in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff) nixed his chances of becoming the first American in space. His accounts of his campaigns and political life, including a 24-year Senate career, flare only fitfully into life, as when he depicts his friend Bobby Kennedy. The writing achieves liftoff in two instances alone: when Glenn proudly recalls wife Annie’s humor, self-sacrifice, and fortitude in dealing with her stuttering, and when he recounts his epochal space flights. He remembers the frustrating delays that preceded his 1962 Friendship 7 mission, the beauty of sunsets seen from space, the peril posed by a defective heat shield, and the national euphoria on his return to earth. In discussing his Discovery shuttle flight 37 years later, he provides fascinating details on quantum advances achieved in space travel during the interim. Despite the simple, even pedestrian writing, Glenn’s story of how he became a throwback to the heroic age of discovery is enduringly thrilling. (16 pages b&w photographs, not seen) (Book-of- the-Month Club Main Selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-553-11074-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999


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