This month in our books section we look at a book dealing with the single most historic event of the 20th century.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins met John F. Kennedy’s call for a manned Moon landing by the end of the 1960s. A decade of tests and training, a staff of 400,000 engineers and scientists, a budget of billions, and the most powerful rocket ever launched all combined in an unprecedented event watched by millions the world over. And no one captured the men, the mood, and the machinery like Norman Mailer.
One of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Norman Mailer was hired by LIFE magazine in 1969 to cover the Moon shot. He enhanced his reportage in the brilliantly crafted book, Of a Fire on the Moon, which is excerpted here. Equally adept at examining the science of space travel and the psychology of the people involved – from Saturn V rocket engineer Wernher von Braun to the crucial NASA support staff to the three astronauts – Mailer provides provocative and trenchant insights into this epoch-making event.
Illustrating this volume are hundreds of photographs and maps from the NASA vaults, magazine archives, and private collections. These images document the development of the agency and the mission, life inside the command module and on the Moon’s surface, and the world’s jubilant reaction to the landing. This 50-year anniversary edition includes captions by leading Apollo 11 experts that explain the history and science behind the images, citing the mission log, publications of the day and postflight astronaut interviews; while an evocative introduction by Colum McCann celebrates Mailer’s incomparable skill at transforming “the science of space… the weight of history… the breadth of mythology” into prose.
Norman Mailer (1923–2007) was one of the 20th century’s greatest and most influential writers, as well as one of America’s most renowned and controversial literary figures. The best-selling author of a dozen novels and 20 works of nonfiction, he also wrote stage plays, screenplays, television miniseries, hundreds of essays, two books of poetry and a collection of short stories. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he lived in Brooklyn, New York, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The contributing author
Colum McCann is the author of eight books, including Let the Great World Spin. He has written for The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, GQ, The Times (London), The Irish Times, and La República.
Norman Mailer. MoonFire. 50th Anniversary Edition
Hardcover with fold-outs, 27 x 32.6 cm, 348 pages: €40
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