I walked to the Border’s near the office on my lunch break this afternoon, on the off-chance that they would have the newest issue of MOJO in stock, the one with the retrospective on the Beatles’ Let It Be album. I knew it was a long-shot, honestly; MOJO usually shows up on this side of the pond the last week of the month.
I did find something interesting instead — We Seven, the 1962 book written by the Mercury Seven astronauts.
The Mercury Seven astronauts were the United States’ first astronauts — Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. Their story is told in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (and Philip Kaufman’s film) and in Tom Hanks’ From the Earth to the Moon. We Seven is their story, in their own words, taken from pieces written for Time.
I read We Seven in junior high school, probably. I read a lot of books on space exploration then. Another frequent read then was Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire. (I wish I could remember which book it was that I had on a virtual permanent check-out in those junior high years; all I remember was that it featured Robert McCall’s concept paintings from 2001, but it probably wasn’t Our Future In Space.)
We Seven was reissued earlier this year in a lovely trade paperback edition; sadly, it’s already made its way to the remainder shelves, where I picked it up today for four dollars.
I don’t remember if it was good or not; that was a long time ago that I read it, I was eleven then. I read The Right Stuff earlier in the year, and I think that, compared to The Right Stuff, We Seven will be rather sanitized. That’s simply the nature of the beast; much of it was written for Time, and the Mercury Seven astronauts had a certain image and mystique to maintain, even if they had their personal rivalries and private jealousies and personal failings just out of sight of an adoring media.
I’m flipping through the book as I’m writing this blog post, and I suspect that the book was printed from the original plates from 1962. The pages look different than the norm of books today, from the serif typeface to the page layout. It looks different. In a good way, but still different.
If you’ve any interest in the early space program, you may want to find a nearby Border’s and pick up the Mercury Seven’s We Seven for less than the cost of a Big Mac Value Meal. And I guarantee you’ll get more out of We Seven than that Big Mac.