Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Fire on the Moon

Hard to think of any two men less alike than Neil Armstrong and Norman Mailer (or Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin -left- for that matter).
Mailer's A Fire on the Moon, 1971 is the second of Tim Radford's choices for best science book highlighted here. Another one I've never read, dammit. I'm claiming I was too young. But I know of it as an example of New Journalism, Mailer style. That is, it is as much about Norman as about the Apollo programme. He was, according to a recent aside in the New Yorker,
"the only important American writer aside from John Updike to find the lunar voyage worthy of sustained attention".

It is also, evidently, less... well, starry-eyed about the whole thing than you were supposed to be at the time. Mailer was allergic to NASA's corporate techno-bureaucratic culture, which is obviously to a person's credit, however astronomical their writerly ego. There's a penetrating recent review of it from Spiked Online.
An interesting one to re-evaluate post Challenger, post space station, and in the light of books like Marina Benjamin's Rocket Dreams, on the demise of the space age, or Andrew Smith's Moondust, chronicling his search for the survivors from Apollo - which is noticeably indebted to J. G Ballard, always a Good Thing, and I suspect is the best written of the lot.

So, does the earlier offering wear as well as Tim thinks it does?


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