Fire and Power
The American Space Program as Postmodern Narrative

William D. Atwill


Fire and Power makes important inroads into a consideration of the space program’s influence on American literature, and it is a valuable work for anyone interested in the ‘ever-changing status of the novel’ . . . in the post–World War II era.”
Studies in the Novel

“This book qualifies as a generalist study and excels as one that synthesizes as well as elucidates.”
American Literature

In Fire and Power William D. Atwill maps the cultural contours of space-age America through readings of some of the era’s most popular and influential narratives: Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet, John Updike’s Rabbit Redux, Norman Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and Don DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star. Together, Atwill demonstrates, these key texts comprise a literary history of the space age, an exploration of the novel’s possibilities in uncertain times, and a disturbing critique of postwar society.

The massive technological enterprise known as the Manned Space Program was, in Atwill’s words, “the historical marker of our age,” and in our race to the moon, he says, Bellow, Updike, Mailer, Wolfe, Pynchon, and DeLillo found a trope for the postmodern condition. To these writers, the space program was the most visible and outward sign of a radical shift in the culture that fostered it—a shift from modernism’s search for interior, individual unity amidst chaos to the postmodern perception of the individual’s fragmentation and uncertain standing in the world.

Page count: 184 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $23.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

William D. Atwill is an associate professor of English and associate director of the honors program at the University of North Carolina