"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Cosmos Clearinghouse for September 2011

ISS View of Hurricane Irene

August 22, 2011 image of Irene from the ISS - Photo Credit: NASA
For all the hubbub generated by a perennially dissatisfied citizenry--over whether the government has done too much or not enough--this photo reminds me of how the great labor of scientists and engineers has made hurricanes a remarkably manageable natural disaster. Asteroids and comets may one day hold that distinction as well, if we ever attain the vision and dedication needed to harness resources we already possess.

Now for my Review of a Damn Good Biography

Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First SpacemanLight This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman by Neal Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light This Candle is a biography that adopts the swagger of its subject: Alan Shephard. Mixing new interviews with material from earlier records, author Neal Thompson delivers a book that proceeds at a steady, confident clip. As such, Light This Candle achieves a gut-level intensity that seems appropriate given the ambitious man it depicts.

At times, this book feels like a piecemeal eulogy. While the bulk of the narrative recounts Shephard’s storied career, chapters dealing with his youth and post-flight years have a summary quality. Even accounts of memorable flights have a no-frills aspect. And this is generally to the author’s credit. It could be tempting to weigh down descriptions of aerial adventure with extravagant prose. However, Thompson wisely takes a no-nonsense approach to rehearsing Shepard’s past.

Light This Candle falls short of feeling revelatory. But this appraisal is not meant as harsh criticism. As the author remarks, Shephard vigilantly maintained privacy in spite of his fame. Like the many who brushed shoulders with the first American in space, Thompson doesn’t gain full-access to Shephard’s personal life. Readers may even be left with the impression that no one, not even Shephard’s beloved wife Louise, was privy to the real story.

Ultimately, Light This Candle is about taking stock of a man who competed and won often. Shephard’s exploits in and out of the cockpit dominate the pages, as they should. In a broader context, Light This Candle is a worthy tome about the American test pilot. It proves a lively read that can stand shoulder to shoulder with other notable books and films about Shepard and his fellow explorers.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmmm..... might have to check that out. Thanks!