Robert Winder has a lovely essay in the Guardian about Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff. How does it read now, in the light of Bush, Iraq and thWall Street maelstrom? He concludes that
The Right Stuff is now best read as an elegy – a remembrance of vanished times. It describes a place and a mood that have crashed and burned. The seeds of this melancholy may already have been in place when the book was published – Wolfe was describing the early 60s from the vantage point of the late 70s, after all. But he was still able to work in an optimistic, fizzing spirit that has now quite dissolved: no one writes pop songs about astronauts the way that Bowie/Elton John/Pink Floyd and company once did. A book that once juddered with thoughts of the future now comes suffused with the past. Nostalgia for the 60s usually involves thoughts of free love, raw music and ditzy drugs, not the panic attacks inspired by Sputnik and the missile testing in Arizona and Florida. Wolfe was thrilled to find such subjects, and had superb, pyrotechnic fun with them. Who would have thought, only a generation later, that his eager, loop-the-loop prose would seem so sad?
He’s right. Sigh.