Synopses & Reviews
"To know me, you have to fly with me."
Meet Ryan Bingham, thirty-five, corporate consultant, very frequent flier, citizen of the transient realm he calls "Airworld." With his cell phone, his handheld computer, and his wardrobe of wrinkle-free slacks and jackets, he's part of a new species: the commercial airborne commando who travels light and depends on no one. A career transition counselor for a Denver-based management firm -- he helps fire people for a living, a job he's come to loathe -- Ryan has a complicated past, an uncertain present, and a very simple goal: to accumulate one million air miles in his cherished frequent flier account. And once he gets there, along with bragging rights among his peers, revenge for years of humiliation at the hands of airlines, and a sense of completion, he'll quit his job and achieve a long-desired (but ambiguous) freedom.
Now Ryan's on his final push: a fiendishly difficult itinerary of eight cities and countless meetings in just six days mixing business, pleasure, and family duties. He's convinced he can pull things off, conditions permitting -- and there, of course, is the catch. Almost from the moment he takes off, they deteriorate. Weather problems. Maintenance foul-ups. Needy seatmates. Mysterious credit card glitches. Deepening guilt for his professional sins. The persistent sense that someone is paging him over the airport loud speakers. Through it all, though, Ryan Bingham points his compass at true north: one million miles. Six zeroes and a one.
Walter Kirn is one of our most perceptive and witty chroniclers of American life, and his new novel combines brilliant social observation with an acute sense of the psychic costs of our rootless existence. Ryan Bingham is a contemporary Willy Loman -- he just travels faster and carries more advanced gadgets in his briefcase -- and a postmodern descendant of Sinclair Lewis's businessman antihero, George Babbitt. Up in the Air is a very different sort of airport read: a reinvention of the classic American road novel, where the "road" ascends to 30,000 feet. It is Walter Kirn's finest novel yet.
"Kirn is such a sharp writer he gives your brain paper cuts. Never have I so happily bled to death." Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Review of Books
Ryan Bingham has a simple goal: to accumulate one million miles in his frequent flyer account. This story follows his life in the transient realm he calls "Airworld" as he wings his way to his goal.
About the Author
Walter Kirn is the literary editor for GQ and a contributing editor to Time and Vanity Fair. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and numerous other national magazines. He is the author of the short-story collection My Hard Bargain and the novels She Needed Me and Thumbsucker (a 1999 New York Times Notable Book). He lives on a farm near Livingston, Montana.