Sunday, October 24, 2010

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

I've never seen the movie based on this book.  I've heard it's very different from the book.  Since finishing the book, I've recorded it, and it's saved on the Tivo, but I've yet to watch it.

I was intrigued by the story of a person spending so much of his life in airplanes and airports.  I've gone through phases of my life in which every weekend was spent in and out of an airport.  I've become familiar with several different airlines.  A few routes I flew so often, the flight crew began to recognize me.

I almost didn't read this book because the reviews on Goodreads were so negative.  But I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did.

I really liked this book.  It's so well written, reads very quickly.  It's funny and interesting.  Because I've spent so much time on planes, I felt I could relate to a lot of it.  Those awkward conversations with strangers, the way the two of you exchange information that you don't even tell your closest acquaintances because here on the plane you have the safety of knowing you'll probably never see this person again.  This book brought back so many memories of encounters on planes.  The fast, fleeting friendships that usually end once we touch the ground.

There's also the main characters conflict with his job.  Again I felt I could on some level relate to this. For years - nine years to be exact - I had one of those jobs that no one really understood.  Truth is, I wasn't even certain as to what I did -- international news distribution - but whatever anyone assumed it was, it probably wasn't.  Selling a product that doesn't really exist, because it's just an idea, and its success depends on convincing other people that the service exists even though it's just an idea.  None of that makes sense,does it?  It's not supposed to.

But this character, he's not just a weekend traveller, as I was.  He travels all the time.  At this point, he doesn't even have a home.  He's got his things in storage somewhere.  He's let his place go, let his car go.  He rents, he stays in hotels.  He's liquidated his life.

He's trying to get one million miles before his boss finds out he's quit his job.  He says he wants to work from home.  He's trying to write a book, trying to get a job with another company that is selling an idea or a service that isn't quite defined.  He's moving from place to place, in a mad rush to accomplish his goals and also save his sister's wedding and keep his family happy.  But all this travel, all this moving from city to city, it's starting to wear him down and his past is beginning to catch up with him.

There are hints throughout the story that something is amiss, something a little more jarring than mere confusion over extensive air travel.  But even with the warnings, the last few pages threw me.   I'm not sure I understood what happened.  I sort of do, but I'm not certain I "got it."  I didn't like the ending, didn't like it at all.  Or maybe I just felt so connected to the character after sharing his hectic journey that I wasn't ready to let go.  I especially didn't like the way I had to let go.  Didn't like what I was reading.  I wanted to keep going, and I wanted to find out more.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who has spent a substantial amount of time traveling through airports and airplanes.

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