Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Up in the Air by Walter Kim



Up in the Air is one of those rare occasions when the film is better than then book. It features Ryan Bingham's businessman who flies back and forth across the states, contracted by companies who are down sizing to help their employees see redundancy as the first day of a wonderful new world of opportunity rather than a fear filled ticket to the scrap heap. In his spare time he gives "motivational speeches"at conferences and is planning a business fable book along the lines of the one minute cheese mover and their ilk.

He has successfully sealed himself off from any form of attachment with the modern equivalent of a girl in every port and his parents and siblings safely on the end of a long distance phone call, Ryan's big obsession however if the loyalty scheme of the airline he uses. He has successfully organised his complete life around the accumulation of air miles and is fast approaching the magic 1000000 point. The early part of the book works really well as Ryan lets us into the secrets of a successful air mile collector and how to survive. the other worldliness of hotels , airports and cross country air travel.The absurdity of his profession also comes through although this is the first point where I kept thinking , this was done so much better in the film.

Once that thought had lodged the whole things went down hill fast. In the film, George Clooney gives a pitch perfect performance as Ryan gradually realises the emptiness of his life and tries to build a long term relationship with a fellow passenger as well as slowly returning the folds of his family via his sister's wedding.

In the book however , Ryan seems to undergo a mild meltdown as paranoia of identity threat , corporate head-hunters and vengeful ex clients seem to push him over the edge. Even in terms of satire the second half of the book is a bit of a mess and succeeded getting me thinking thinking that this is one of those times when thank god the filmmakers decided to mess about with the storey and take a different path.

You can get Up in the Air here and whilst not a bad book if you've not seen it get the dvd instead

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