In one way, astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s second autobiography, Magnificent Desolation, is like the tone poem by Richard Strauss, “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. The first portion builds up to a dizzying climax and then settles into standard fare. The “theme” to the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” is all most people know of Strauss’ piece. But unless you’re a lover of classical music, the remainder of the music seems uninteresting. I like Richard Strauss’ music, but I rarely listen to Also Sprach Zarathustra beyond the first movement.
So it seems to me that Magnificent Desolation could be called “Also Sprach Buzz Aldrin”. The tentative outer space odyssey musical connection is obvious. And this reader soon discovered the body of the book is too.
The first two chapters are a riveting description of the Apollo 11 Moon flight and how Aldrin became the second man to walk on the Moon’s surface. Then the descriptions of what came after his return to Earth became mundane and flat. There is a market for what happens after the Moon walk in the self-help, chemical dependency, and depression recovery categories of books. This particular book bordered on the maudlin, even when accounting for the usual content of that genre of writing.
Soon enough, I encountered “TMI”, too much information and tedious details about Aldrin’s personal life. The reader finds out that Aldrin has a drinking problem and is a womanizer. I have a few friends and acquaintances who have chemical dependency issues and relationship difficulties, so my heart goes out to Aldrin for his many problems.
That said, it was difficult to relate to the man after reading about the wonderful career opportunities that were seemingly dropped in his lap. Slogging through the details of a lifestyle and the marital strife of a semi-famous celebrity made me feel like I was reading a grade B tell-all. When the name dropping and lavish tales of hobnobbing with the super rich built up, I had shifted into extreme speed reading mode. I just wanted to get to the end and finish the book.
My interest was piqued again at his ideas for travel to Mars, and again when he describes his efforts as an entrepreneur. But the writing was dull. I felt like I was reading Associated Press news copy instead of what should have been a vital book. Much of the book seemed like self-promoting boilerplate in favor of his commercial aspirations. A person encounters this sort of copy all over the web in ebooks.
There is one hoped for bonus inside the book. There are several glossy pages of photographs that should interest most people. I was very happy the pictures were included.
This is exactly the type of book one normally stumbles across in a thrift store. I should have known better, because I spent a dollar on it at the local Goodwill. I suppose I got my dollar’s worth. I’ll probably re-donate it to the store.
I really didn’t want to pan this rather shallow book.
Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin and Ken Abraham. 336 pages, trade paperback; published by Three Rivers Press; copyright 2009, 2010 by Starbuzz, LLC. ISBN: 978-0-307-46346-3
The Blue Jay of Happiness says that you really won’t find very much in the line of self-help advice in this book, either. However, if you enjoy celebrity name dropping, you’ll love this book.