now finished: Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Up in the Air. Much like the previous book I read, about John Quincy Adams, boy do I relate to the main character! I never thought I would find myself so similar to two men as I have in reading these last two books.
Ryan Bingham flies - a lot. He is more comfortable in airports and jetting from place to place than he is in conventional things like homes and families. I understand Ryan. I take it that some people don't?
In the grand scheme of things, I am so not a frequent flyer. Nor am I ever likely to be an elite member of any given airline's club: I tend to buy tickets based mostly on price, my miles are spread across a few airlines, and I can count the number of trips I've taken by redeeming miles on one hand. But maybe being a flyer is also state of mind. I tend to be pretty zen about the whole flying thing. And I most certainly do not hate the airlines. Au contraire. I hate the passengers who complain about them.
People get really impatient when they fly, but I think they are impatient about all the wrong things. They are ready to tear the airline apart if there's a ten-minute flight delay, but they have no concept of how to get their stupid bags out of the overhead bin and get off the plane in an efficient fashion. They are all convinced that The Airline is going to lose their luggage, and for some reason it is okay to complain about this theoretical possibility, but they don't like it if I complain about an actuality, such as their child screaming or kicking the back of my seat.
It would probably behoove me to get elite status on some airline, and to get some first-class upgrades. I haven't really been in a position where I've flown more than a few times a year for the last few years, so it's kind of a non-issue. But I would love nothing more than a job that has me flying around all the time. Like Ryan Bingham's. He's comfortable and happy in Airworld. I relate.
Other things I like about the book are 1)that it has an easy familiarity with U.S. geography, which you would think any American has but boy would you be mistaken and 2)it has this whole snarky observation-of-Mormons/Utah thing going on throughout which I found awesome.
The movie, which is currently playing and getting much Oscar buzz, is quite different from the book, but also good. I think if you like one you will like the other, but they are different.
One of the most interesting things about Up in the Air is that it was published around July 2001. Meaning, then September 11 happened, forever altering flying as we know it and probably wrecking the chances of Kirn's whimsical Airworld having mass appeal at that time. That's a bummer for Kirn. I hope the release of the film this year inspires lots of us to pick up the book -- a light read, but with a lot of cleverness tucked in between the lines.