Synopses & Reviews
From the cocktails columnist of the New York Times
, the scathingly funny, deeply moving story of a stranded passenger whose enraged letter of complaint transforms into a lament for a life gone awry.
Bennie Ford, a fifty-three-year-old failed poet turned translator, is traveling to his estranged daughter's wedding when his flight is canceled. Stuck with thousands of fuming passengers in the purgatory of O'Hare Airport, he watches the clock tick and realizes that he will miss the ceremony. Frustrated, irate, and helpless, Bennie does the only thing he can: he starts to write a letter. But what begins as a hilariously excoriating demand for a refund soon becomes a cri de coeur of a life misspent, talent wasted, opportunities botched, and happiness lost. A man both sinned against and sinning, Bennie pens his letter in a voice that is a marvel of lacerating wit directed at himself and at others, heart-on-sleeve emotion, and wide-ranging erudition, underlined by a consistent groundnote of regret for the actions of a lifetime and all of it is propelled by the fading hope that if he could just make it to the wedding, he might have a chance to do something right.
A margarita blend of outrage, wicked humor, vulnerability, intelligence, and regret, Dear American Airlines gives new meaning to the term airport novel and announces the emergence of a major new talent in American fiction.
"This crisp yowl of a first novel from Miles, who covers books for Men's Journal and cocktails for the New York Times, finds despairing yet effusive litterateur Benjamin Ford midair in midlife crisis. Bennie is en route from New York, where he shares a cramped apartment with his stroke-disabled mother and her caretaker, to L.A., where he will attend his daughter Stella's wedding. He gets stranded at O'Hare when his connecting flight along with all others is unaccountably canceled. In the long, empty hours amid a marooned crowd, Bennie's demand for a refund quickly becomes a scathing yet oddly joyful reflection on his difficult life, and on the Polish novel he is translating. Bennie writes lightly of his 'dark years' of drinking, of his failed marriages, about his mother's descent into suicidal madness and about her marriage to Bennie's father, a survivor of a Nazi labor camp. Bennie's father recited Polish poetry for solace during Bennie's childhood, inadvertently setting Bennie's life course; Bennie's command of language as he describes his fellow strandees and his riotous embrace of his own feelings will have readers rooting for him. By the time flights resume, Miles has masterfully taken Bennie from grim resignation to the dazzling exhilaration of the possible. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A novel that captures the tedium of being stuck overnight in an airport can't help but become a little tedious in the process....Bennie tells us more about his night and his life than most would ever want to learn." Kirkus Reviews
"One of the many pleasures of Dear American Airlines is watching Benjamin's and Walenty's stories finally dovetail in a way that's not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding. Ah, but the digressions! Not every reader will love them as I did." Richard Russo, New York Times
"Turn to nearly any page and you'll find a funny, smart, touching, wonderfully caustic or well-turned sentence or paragraph." Chicago Tribune
"Miles has done a beautiful job of moderating Benny's riffs and rants, so that we get to know him gradually, circularly, as one might do a loquacious town crank who tells good stories." Boston Globe
"This is writing that pulls no punches....It's also very funny." Los Angeles Times
"Mr. Miles is a superb writer and learned, too. Allusions, literary and otherwise, abound." Dallas Morning News
From the cocktails columnist at the New York Times comes the scathingly funny, deeply moving story of a stranded airline passenger, whose enraged letter of complaint transforms into a lament for a life gone awry.
“Why are you so unhappy?” Thats the question that Zeke Pappas, a thirty-three-year-old scholar, asks almost everybody he meets as part of an obsessive project, “The Inventory of American Unhappiness.” The answers he receives—a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint—create a collage of woe. Zeke, meanwhile, remains delightfully oblivious to the increasingly harsh realities that threaten his daily routine, opting instead to focus his energy on finding the perfect mate so that he can gain custody of his orphaned nieces. Following steps outlined in a womens magazine, the ever-optimistic Zeke identifies some “prospects”: a newly divorced neighbor, a coffeehouse barista, his administrative assistant, and Sofia Coppola (“Why not aim high?”).
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders of strangers, a quixotic renegade when it comes to the federal bureaucracy, and a devoted believer in the afternoon cocktail and the evening binge, Zeke has an irreverent voice that is a marvel of lacerating wit and heart-on-sleeve emotion, underscored by a creeping paranoia and made more urgent by the hope that if he can only find a wife, he might have a second chance at life.
From the author of Please Don't Come Back from the Moon, a charming, disturbing, and funny story of a more-than-slightly deluded young man's quest to find a bride.
About the Author
Jonathan Miles left home at seventeen, intent on a life in music, but when he landed in Oxford, Mississippi, he traded in the blues for writing. Having learned the art of fiction and of living from Barry Hannah and the late Larry Brown, Miles has worked as a blues researcher, bartender, gardener, and journalist, covering everything from the death of Faulkner's bootlegger to the theory and practice of bar fights to the Dakar Rally in Africa. Now the cocktails columnist for the New York Times and books columnist for Men's Journal, Miles's work has appeared, among other places, in GQ, The Oxford American, The New York Observer, and The New York Times Book Review.