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WEDNESDAY

Auburn University History Professor (and onetime NASA historian) James R. Hansen’s authorized bio of Neil Armstrong, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, features, among countless other anecdotes, a cameo by William Safire: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace,” the then-speechwriter wrote in a statement prepared in case the mission went terribly wrong, “will stay on the moon to rest in peace.” The statement, sort of like the celebrity surrounding Armstrong himself, blends genuine heroism and bravery with mythmaking—and, let’s face it, a bit of kitsch. Moreover, being a celebrity in contemporary American society can sometimes be a colossal pain in the ass. (For the last time: No, Armstrong did not convert to Islam after hearing the adhan, or Muslim prayer call, on the moon’s surface.) Nonetheless, in Hansen’s telling, Armstrong has found happiness—“a type of personal redemption”—with his second wife, Carol Knight Armstrong. Fittingly, their courtship inverts a shopworn myth about another stoic American: The First Man on the Moon hits on his second wife by offering to help her chop down a dead cherry tree. Hansen speaks at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Joe Dempsey)