The Right Stuff

Douglas A. Jeffrey, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 1983.


The right stuff is something that those who have it recognize in one another but do not and perhaps cannot speak of. More than expertise and more than daring, the right stuff is courage. The question raised by Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, and its film adaptation, has to do with the extent to which courage has become discouraged at our bend in the road of American history. The film is aptly advertised as presenting us with a picture of “How the Future Began.” This image suggests that a transformation of things, or of our understanding of things, has occurred especially in the years since the Second World War, whereby the present and future are made one and the past is jettisoned for good. Courage is that element of the past which we are asked to consider as a means of judging the consequences of, and the wisdom of accepting, this supposed or proposed transformation.

Claremont Review of Books