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Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

Up in the Air (2001)

by Walter Kirn

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I loved the movie, so I decided to read the book. The first part was amazing, the writing just oozing with greatness and perfection. The middle lagged but was still okay. But the last part, oh the last part. I don't know if the author just ran out of ideas or kind of gave up on it, but it was just bad. The last twenty pages or so were very confusing, making me wonder if I was still holding the same book that I'd started out with.

The ending though was the worst part, just a complete disappointment. But nonetheless, I still respect the novel for the great movie that came out of it. At least the screenwriter had a better imagination and world view. ( )
  Alexander19 | Oct 28, 2013 |
I loved this book much more than I expected too. It’s inevitable that it will be compare it to the movie so I’ll weigh in there; I really liked the movie but this is a bit different and I may have liked it more. On the surface it’s not as different as some people seem to suggest, but something about the tone gives it a different feel. It’s much more of a satire, a little more frazzled, much less romantic, and less "Lost in Translation" light.

It’s really well written, funny, and food for thought. ( )
  bongo_x | Apr 6, 2013 |
I loved this book much more than I expected too. It’s inevitable that it will be compare it to the movie so I’ll weigh in there; I really liked the movie but this is a bit different and I may have liked it more. On the surface it’s not as different as some people seem to suggest, but something about the tone gives it a different feel. It’s much more of a satire, a little more frazzled, much less romantic, and less "Lost in Translation" light.

It’s really well written, funny, and food for thought. ( )
  bongo_x | Apr 6, 2013 |
I have to agree with reviewers who have put this on lists with titles like "THE MOVIE WAS BETTER THAN THE BOOK." This is simpler than it should have been, with potentially interesting subplots that vaguely and amorphously evaporate. The protagonist is both annoying and pathetic, a bad combination from which Kirn cannot redeem him. Shades of [b:Fight Club|5759|Fight Club|Chuck Palahniuk|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165544411s/5759.jpg|68729] (published a few years earlier) lead to an unsatisfying conclusion in which it becomes clear that the narrator has lied to the reader. This causes a deflating "oh" rather than a satisfied "yowee! by damn!" I did read it at one sitting on a cross-continental itinerary, at least, and that ought to count for something. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Up in the Air is not a novel that I would have picked up, had it not been for my desire to see the movie. I seem to cling to an OCDish need to read the book that the movie is based upon before I will allow myself to see it. I can only assume that this is a story preservation tactic, as I trust my imagination and interpretation over some Hollywood producer, and have witnessed the butchering of one too many great books. That being said, I have heard from countless people that in this case, the movie has very little to do with Walter Kirn’s book. Be that as it may, I held steadfast to my regular routine.

In the novel we are met with Ryan Bingham, a career transition counselor/business consultant, who sidelines as a motivational speaker. Seeing him walk through the doors of your firm is not a welcome sight, as this usually means that people will be losing their jobs. After you’ve been fired, he is the hired muscle that will teach you the skills needed to move on, as he walks you out the door to new opportunities, instead of blatantly throwing you and your box filled with 25 years worth of personal effects, through a plate-glass window. Due to a mounting dissatisfaction with his career, and an assumption that he is being scouted-out for a coveted position in a stealth marketing firm, MythTech, he has left a letter of resignation waiting for his vacationing boss.

Ryan has spent the majority of his time traveling on airplanes back and forth between failing companies, and as a consequence has racked up nearly one million frequent flyer miles. In fact, he is excitedly preparing to ascend into the ‘million dollar club’ before his job ends, and throughout the novel we observe this obsessive need consume his thoughts and even dictate changes to his erratic itinerary. He whittles away his time focusing on his ‘Airworld’ status instead of looking at what is really important in his life, things that will give him the self-satisfaction that he so desperately craves.

While at one moment it would appear that Ryan is enjoying his busy life on the road, staying in hotels all over the country, meeting all sorts of interesting people, in the next moment it becomes apparent that he has been kidding himself, and is not healthy, nor of sound mind. Outside of his family that he rarely sees, his relationships consist of acquaintances and random travelers. He is increasingly paranoid and distrustful of his employer as well as the airline that he flies with. We watch him unravel and mentally deteriorate as he fixates on those that he perceives are out to get him, coping by gambling and abusing alcohol and drugs. Things just start to catch up with him.

The ending sheds a lot of light into the lives of some of the mentor-like, omnipotent and successful people that Ryan looks up to throughout the novel. He learns that his illusions are grand and misplaced, as their truths become clear. Everything he believed in appears to be turning into an extravagant myth. These realizations offer him the honesty to look at himself, and his truths, with acceptance.

Walter Kirn has an engaging, clever and subtle writing style that requires you to think, so don’t attempt this one unless you’re in the mood. As with any great writer he doesn’t tell the reader, he shows them. Throughout the novel I felt like a fellow passenger on one of Ryan’s flights, as he intimately shared his goals, his fears and his eventual realizations.

Now, I look forward to seeing what the movie has to offer!

Check out more of my reviews at www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
  PamelaReads | Aug 5, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Kirn’s prose is splendid, his observations droll and intelligent, his evocations of Airworld pitch-perfect. If only his ambitions did more than snugly fit his grasp. A mild treat from a stubbornly minor novelist still marking literary time somewhere between Don DeLillo and the authors of those fluffy confections readers inhale on summer beaches—or in airports.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2011)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307476286, Paperback)

The hero of Walter Kirn's novel Up in the Air inhabits an entirely new state: Airworld, where the hometown paper is USA Today, the indigenous cuisine wilts under heat lamps, and the citizenry speaks a Byzantine dialect of upgrades, expense accounts, and market share. Airworld even has its own nontaxable, inflation-free currency in the shape of bonus miles, which Ryan Bingham calls "private property in its purest form." Officially, Bingham is a management consultant, specializing in the lugubrious field of career transition counseling (i.e., he fires people for a living). But what Kirn's airborne protagonist is really doing is pursuing his own private passion, his great white whale: accumulating one million miles in his frequent-flyer account. As Up in the Air opens, Bingham has set out on a final, epic traveling jag. He intends to visit eight cities in six days, thereby achieving his own vision of Nirvana somewhere over Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Mocking the euphemisms of business speak is as easy as shooting fish in a designer barrel. But Kirn also takes on the corporate world's weirdly mystical and paranoid side, its rhetoric of personal empowerment and its messianic devotion to gurus. "Business is folk wisdom, cave-born, dark, Masonic, and the best consultants are outright shamans who sprinkle on the science like so much fairy dust," declares Bingham. (This doesn't stop him from working on his own book about "the transformational journey of one mind wholly at peace with its core competencies.") Meanwhile, his junket becomes progressively more surreal, complete with an evil nemesis as well as a mysteriously powerful firm called MythTech that's working behind the scenes. And what's worse, someone seems to have stolen his identity, assuming control of his credit cards and his all-important miles.

Is this model consumer being tracked as he makes his purchasing decisions, like an elk tagged by wildlife biologists? Or is he merely losing his mind? The ending answers these questions perhaps a little too neatly, but Kirn's disturbing satire packs a mighty wallop nonetheless. The writing is as sharp as a tack, punctuated by character sketches as brilliant as they are quick. Bingham and his ilk are modern nomads, dispossessed of physicality but not quite of their bodies. His simulated environment is not mimicking an actual place but replacing it--and that, to the author, is the scariest part of Airworld: "This is the place to see America, not down there, where the show is almost over." --Mary Park

Up in the Air is now a major motion picture starring George Clooney, Jason Bateman, and Anna Kendrick, and directed by Jason Reitman. Enjoy these images from the film, and click the thumbnails to see larger images.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A traveling management consultant who is called in to fire people, thirty-five-year-old Ryan Bingham spends his life on airplanes and in airports as he travels around the country, pursuing his goal to accumulate one million miles in his frequent flyer account.… (more)

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