Wilbur and Orville

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Author Fred Howard was an archivist with the team cataloguing the Orville and Wilbur Wright papers at the Library of Congress. He was a bombadier-navigator. For this reason, his book is a useful contribution to the historical field. Howard pursues the brothers faithfully beyond the early death of Wilbur and the continuing resolve of Orville to follow up the example his brother set as a pioneer of American flight. The historic episode at Kitty Hawk is dealt with in particularly close detail.

In a biography of this length, however, the lack of a more substantial emotional and psychological content is disappointing. Howard makes little attempt to delve beneath the hagiographic public figures that the Wright brothers became. Apart from noting that they were taciturn by nature, Howard seems content to use previously published material about their fraternal relationship, without any attempt at a further understanding or analysis.

Ably documented about flight matters, the book misses the heart of the subjects with which it deals, and therefore cannot be accounted a complete success as a biography. After reading it, one may know better what Wilbur and Orville did, but one has little insight concerning who they were or why they did what they did. In this sense, Howard’s book ultimately is a disappointment.