By Emily Carney
As a kid I was absolutely obsessed with the Apollo missions from the late 1960s and early 1970s. As an adult, I still am.
I’ve read nearly every book about the subject of the Apollo missions, including the excellent Lost Moon/Apollo 13 by Captain Jim Lovell himself. (He was a great man and this is a great book!) I even had Jim Irwin’s autograph; if you don’t recognize his name, he was on Apollo 15. . . and he walked on the freakin’ moon! I have visited the Air and Space Museum and Kennedy Space Center countless times. I’ve touched the command module of Apollo 12. I met Roger Chaffee’s dad (Chaffee was one of the astronauts lost in Apollo 1’s spacecraft fire). I even read the book about Roger Chaffee called On Course to the Stars (which is woefully out of print).
While officially these things make me a complete and utter nerd, I still think the various moon landings are among the greatest feats of science and exploration ever carried out by the USA. Shit, whenever I feel disparaging about my country, I always think, “Well, at least we landed men on the moon.”
As a youngster, I also read Buzz Aldrin’s 1973 autobiography, Return to Earth. Since I was approximately nine years old at that time, I didn’t yet understand many of the concepts of clinical depression and adultery contained within the book, so I ended up abandoning it. Now, at age 31, here comes another new memoir from Buzz, Magnificent Desolation. I gladly ignored its high price tag in order to (hopefully) hear stories about Apollo 11 and possibly a little bit about the second man to walk on the moon.
Unfortunately, Buzz writes little about the Apollo 11 mission, and instead concentrates on his sometimes hilarious, utterly insane personal problems during the 1970s. In short, Buzz became a raging alcoholic after he came back to Earth; he managed to alienate his entire family while carrying on an illicit relationship with a chick simply referred to as “Marianne.” Marianne eventually—and not too shockingly—gave him an ultimatum: your wife or me. Buzz’s long-suffering wife obviously doesn’t react well to this tidbit of information, and soon they divorce. Buzz then enters into another dubious relationship with his soon-to-be-second wife. Things get so bad for Buzz that he ends up selling used cars (I am not even making this up).
In the 1980s, Buzz begins a relationship with the woman who would become his third wife (Lois) and is miraculously restored to mental and physical health. By this point, he had been in rehab twice! Impressive. The rest of the book pretty much is essentially an excruciating, extended love letter to Lois. There’s even a portrait of the couple on the back cover of the book. . . wearing matching outfits! There is also LOT of name-dropping; apparently the Aldrins know many very famous people, and Buzz likes to mention that quite a bit.
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