this week's review
May 10, 2000

A small percentage
of each purchase
you make at via my recommendations
helps keep the
Picture of the Day alive.

Destination Moon

Of a Fire on the Moon
Norman Mailer

The horror of the Twentieth Century
was the size of each new event,
and the paucity if its reverberations.

Maybe it's not fair that I'm reviewing a book I haven't read or thought much about in 4 years, but it has stuck with me and now that I have it on loan from the Seattle Public Library and have read the first paragraph ("...He [Mailer likes referring to himself in the third-person] was sick in that miasmal and not quite discoverable region between the liver and the soul. Hemingway's suicide left him wedded to horror. It is possible that in the eight years since, he never had a day which was completely free of thoughts of death."), the sweep and strength of Norman Mailer's OF A FIRE ON THE MOON comes rushing back to me with the same shudder of excitement as when a 36-storey Saturn V rocket lifts ponderously from the launchpad, a skyscraper attempting flight, Henry Miller's lead-with-wings erection erupting across the cape.

Famed egotist Mailer covered the Apollo 11 first-manned-moonlanding beat journalist-wise for a few tawdry weeks in July of 1969, moving from Mission Control in Houston to equally broiling swamps of Cape Canaveral, filtering the scene through x-ray eyes immune to the prevailing jingoist hype. The things he notices are peculiar but somehow salient: 15 of the 16 Apollo astronauts had blue eyes; Buzz Aldrin gave himself Holy Communion on the moon; cocktail party quotes from Von Braun and other ex-Nazi rocket scientists who made America's flag-planting on the moon the "triumph for democracy" it was.  

Most of the moonshot facts in my story "Vegetable Dreams" were culled from these pages (supplemented by the BBC broadcasts available on Apollo 11 Moon Landing). The facts in themselves are breathtaking--almost literally, as when Mailer notes the Saturn V rocket burned every second the oxygen equivalent of half the global population's taking a breath--and both material description and political dissection are written with greater vigor and insight than Wolfe's THE RIGHT STUFF, although the latter is useful as an introduction to why the wasteful expedient of manned rockets (and incidental creation of single-combat warrior class of astronauts) was chosen over continuing aggressive development of piloted space planes.

To anyone who's ever looked at the moon and wondered what it would be like to travel there, read this lost treasure and you'll know at least what it was like--and all it demanded--to be first.

There's No Place Like It.

Let's not forget we're living on a little planet, what some like to call spaceship earth. If earth is a spaceship, this is the owner's manual: THE HOME PLANET. Political boundaries are dissolved by a moon's-eye view of Earth to create bold visions of the planet through 150 color photographs culled from the American and then-Soviet archives. Commentary is provided solely by eloquent quotes from astronauts of 18 nations which are shown both in original language (be it Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Mongolian, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Dutch, or Russian) and English translation. The message is simple--we are all citizens of the same global nation.

fiction | non-fiction | art | comix | poetry
© 1999 robert zverina