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Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
Age: Adult Fiction
I went to see the movie Up in the Air about a few months ago, and instantly fell in love with the story, the theme and the characters of the movie. Having learned that it was based on a book by Walter Kirn, I put a hold on the book as soon as possible and started reading it.
The book Up in the Air, differs incredibly from the movie. Although there is a still a melancholy tone, a theme of unfinished business and unrequited love, the actual story told about Ryan Bingham is different. In the movie, Ryan’s job is to announce lay-offs to employees of major companie and provide those employees with advice to help them with their transition from having a job to being jobless. In the book, this is still Ryan’s job, but it is not the focus of the book. In fact, the focus is on Ryan having turned in his 2 week notice, his attempts to meet with his publisher about his self-help book, and about his desire to work for Mythtech. The story of the book spans only a week. During this week of travel, Ryan is still earning points, hoping to achieve 1million frequent flier points before his last day at CIC. In this week, we are introduced to Airworld. A work in flight, in motion and with little to no baggage involved. The people in Ryan’s life are fleeting and unreliable, but then again, so is he.
Overall, I found this book to be an wonderful breath of fresh air for all the chick-driven literature I’ve been reading lately. This book was told by a man, for men, and that was an awesome thought process to experience. Kirn’s short and choppy sentences demonstrate just how fast-paced Ryan’s life is. He supplements the dull moments with philosophical quips about human behaviour and interactions based on Ryan’s methods of handling different situations and via his conversations with fellow passengers on the plane.
My only regret is that I did not give this book the time that it needed. I kept putting off reading the last third because I had to read my book club books first. By the time I was able to return to Kirn’s fictional Airworld, I had lost my connection to the book and sort of rushed through the end. I think if I hadn’t taken such a long break, the book would have had a more powerful effect on me.
Up in the Air
Find this book at your local library
Up in the Air is the newest movie by director Jason Reitman (Juno and Thank You for Smoking). For some reason unbeknownst to me, there is only 1 movie theater in the entire Bay Area that is playing this movie, and it just happens to be in San Francisco. I think that is a shame, because this is one of the best movies I have seen all year, and I really wish more people would be able to go see it. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn. The book was written in 2001, but the plot and execution of the film is timely given today’s recession and epidemic levels of lay-offs.
The plot: George Clooney plays a man who travels almost 90% of the year, firing people. When managers are too coward to lay-off their own staff, they call a separate corporation to send someone to do the job. Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham lives in an isolated world, surrounded by strangers. Airports are his home, he has no solid relationships with anyone in his life, until he meets Alex. A female frequent flier that seems to be his exact female match. To cut the story short, Clooney takes on a travel partner, a 23 year old Columbia graduate who wants to revolutionize the firing industry through technology and the internet (firing people via computer screen rather than in person).
I heard the interview with Jason Reitman on NPR and I instantly wanted to see this movie. I liked Thank You for Smoking, but I really did not like Juno. Ellen Page really killed the movie for her. I thought her delivery was forced, her character was too witty to be realistic, and I’m really just sick of Michael Cera always playing the desolate loser. But, that’s a tangent.
Up in the Air is a really emotional movie, where you see people at their most vulnerable. The people getting fired and the people doing the firing. You learn a lot about the value of friendship, of love, of compassion. You see how technology, although bringing people together all around the world, is also putting up a wall against human contact. One thing I found interesting about the movie, was that except for the obviously famous actors, all the people being laid off in the movie, are real people who have been laid off by the recession. Jason Reitman put out an ad, touting this movie as a documentary about job loss and the recession. I think going this route, really gave the movie a more human feel to it, than if actors had played those roles. It gave a face, numerous faces actually, to just how severe this recession is.