- Publisher: Grove Pr (December 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394620194
- ISBN-13: 978-0394620190
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,351,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Of a Fire on the Moon Paperback – December, 1985
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Top Customer Reviews
As one of the foremost contemporary American writers, Mailer was commissioned to write about the first lunar landing in the 1960s. What appeared in 1970 was this rather confusing account that is written as almost stream of consciousness ruminations on spaceflight. It provides useful insights, most importantly as Mailer with his 1960s countercultural mindset meets its antithesis, a NASA steeped in middle class values and reverence for the American flag and culture.
Mailer was forced in "Of a Fire on the Moon," grudgingly to admit that NASA's approach to task accomplishment--which he sees as the embodiment of the Protestant Work Ethic--and its technological and scientific capability got results with Apollo. He rails at NASA's closed and austere society, one where he says outsiders are distrusted and held at arm's length with a bland and faceless courtesy that betrays nothing.
For all of its skepticism, for all of its esotericism, the book captures powerful insights into rocket technology and the people who produced it in Project Apollo, but it is also heavy going to extract them from this dense book.
Another related episode is describing how the NASA engineers prefer to eat alone in their cubicles without interfacing with other humans because they are preoccupied with their technical problems...very accurate.
He compares the specialists of Mission Control to a professor having at his disposal a room of exports on English writers, poets, etc. There are other humorous examples in the book.
Toward the end of the book he weighs in with a history of how computers work, this at a time when most people's exposure to a computer was a card that said "don't fold, staple or mutilate" in their utility bill. His technical description of computers is very well done, and this is the only book on the subject that gives an accurate enough description of the computers in use at Houston and on the spacecraft that allows you to directly compare them to what we have today in a home computer. (32k of memory, for instance, on the spacecraft computers).
His technical accounts of the moon voyage are accurate and cover interesting detail I do not see by other writers; maybe if you dig into enough NASA documents you might find them. He puts a human face on the whole achievment and gives his opinion of what it all means. I think he was less impressed about it than I was, but this book is the best.
Its roughly divided into three parts; a deeply personal (egotistic?) description of the weeks leading up to the launch itself; a much larger description of the science and engineering of the Apollo Saturn spacecraft; and a weaker final section attempts to put the event into some kind of social and historical context. This last section is the most dated - remember you're reading an absolutely contemporary account here - the Apollo missions were still on-going when the book was published in 1970-71.
America became bored with space travel, and Mailer (with astonishing foresight) detects and describes the causes - the remorseless banality of the astronauts, and the fearsomely conformist culture of NASA itself.
Overall this is a great book, it has stood the test of time very well, and its a great starting point for anyone interested in the moon landing. Its high time for a reprint and new introduction by the author - and lets thank him for a well written and very honest account of what may be (for historians) the most important event of 20th century, bar none.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent read after all these years. Some very interesting and elucidating information but like all Mailer's works sometimes it seems like slogging through a muddy swamp.Published 4 months ago by Patrick M. Kennedy
Excellent book and in great condition for as old as it is. Seller delivered as promised! Will definitely purchase from the seller again.Published 8 months ago by Charles Bradley
Historically, this is a decent book. But, as you may imagine it is mainly about Norman Mailer. I forget but I think he continuously refers to himself as Aquarius. Why? No idea. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mac Observer
The first half of the book (about Norman Mailer) was pompous and annoying. The second half (about Apollo 11) was interesting and informative.Published 11 months ago by Dominick Testa
writing horrible. He obviously hated the space program. Hard to readPublished 12 months ago by James Cross
Some thoughts upon rereading Norman Mailer’s, Of a Fire on the Moon.
I graduated high school in June of 1969. Read more
I will have to read this one again. There is so much information to absorb. Mailer succeeds in most parts to place us on the personal journey of the astronauts and he reveals what... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Valiant Man