Books: Skywriting with Gus and Deke

THE RIGHT STUFF by Tom Wolfe; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 436 pages; $12.95

May 5, 1961: the day Alan Shepard scratched his back on the edge of space and America entered the manned space race. At last. Since 1957 there had been all those Sputniks—Mechtas and Vostoks—beeping overhead, clockwork reminders that the heavens were in the hands of the godless Bolshevik. The script had gone awry. A nation only 40 years from feudalism was secretly lobbing what looked like customized samovars at the free world while priapic Vanguards and Jupiters wilted on their...

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