Read Up in the Air by Walter Kirn Online


Ryan Bingham’s job as a Career Transition Counselor–he fires people–has kept him airborne for years. Although he has come to despise his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls “Airworld,” finding contentment within pressurized cabins, anonymous hotel rooms, and a wardrobe of wrinkle-free slacks. With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss’s desRyan Bingham’s job as a Career Transition Counselor–he fires people–has kept him airborne for years. Although he has come to despise his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls “Airworld,” finding contentment within pressurized cabins, anonymous hotel rooms, and a wardrobe of wrinkle-free slacks. With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss’s desk, and the hope of a job with a mysterious consulting firm, Ryan Bingham is agonizingly close to his ultimate goal, his Holy Grail: one million frequent flier miles. But before he achieves this long-desired freedom, conditions begin to deteriorate. With perception, wit, and wisdom, Up in the Air combines brilliant social observation with an acute sense of the psychic costs of our rootless existence, and confirms Walter Kirn as one of the most savvy chroniclers of American life....

Title : Up in the Air
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385722377
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Up in the Air Reviews

  • Jeff
    2019-03-18 04:58

    I hate flying. It’s been a while since I traveled by air, the last time was when there were a bunch of little start up airlines that undercut each other for the cheapest fares. These were the airlines that would get you to your next destination, but wouldn’t/couldn’t tell you when exactly your return flight would be. “Just call us when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, a few days before you leave. We should know by then.” The plane, I believe, was an old converted army cargo plane. The inflight meal was Korean War era K rations. The pilot regaled us with his exploits of cruising around with Eddie Rickenbacker and the dogfights against the Red Baron. I haven’t flown since.Ryan Bingham is a modern day nomad. As a consultant, he’s constantly flying around the country. He no longer has a home. All his belongings are in storage. He lives in Airworld. His existence is defined by planes, airports, lounges. He knows every serving attendant, every airport like the back of his hand, every clerk, every pilot. He knows his way around airports, hotels, restaurants. He can feign interest in a fellow traveler and schmooze with the best of them. And he’s getting close to one million frequent flier miles. In order to obtain this hallowed goal, he’s juggling a dozen things: his job, a manuscript, women, his runaway sister, physical ailments, memory loss and a blooming paranoia. With a narrative that snakes it’s way around from the present back into the past, Kirn comes off as Saul Bellow-lite, an amusing Saul Bellow-lite, but without the chops of the master of digression.There’s plenty of wry commentary and lines you’ll re-read and think, “I wish I had said that”. But for all its charms, the book ultimately fell flat, veering more than once into Absurdistan airspace (I hate traveling here). Ultimately, the wit gets undermined by pretension and a crappy payoff.The voice in my head department. I’m not talking about the voice(s) inside my head that tell me to cover myself in strawberry jam and run naked into the desert (I’m taking meds for that), I’m talking about the narrative voices that pop into my brain when I’m reading. For much of this book, it was H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Coach McGuirk). This helped punch up the humor. For the rest, it was George Clooney. This was Dullsville – another place I hate to travel.

  • Fabian
    2019-03-17 06:52

    Early on in "Air," Kirn feebly mentions something about a novel having no plot. Obviously, it's made clear soon enough that what you carry in your very hands is one such novel. "Plotless" to me is an intriguing adventure (heck, I've tried my hand at this type of experiment for my thesis)-- & even Snow White in the Black Woods-scary. Perhaps a truly ingenious and novel form of the Novel. Then disappointment strikes. Hey, wasn't there some, like, Oscar-nominated film by the same name with George Clooney? I saw it and disremember it completely. It is worse with the book though that for whatever reason what begins in semi-cool C. Palahniuk territory (a breeze, though hardly a pleasure) eventually treads through stale, flavorless, plaster vanilla lameness. I've never been treated to a more blah version of bombastic Las Vegas--heck, the freakin' climax of the novel occurs there. It is banal and bland--double, triple, quadruple offenses of literature, of basic entertainment. It is not monolithic and inspiring, like J. G. Ballard, nor is it strangely apocalyptic and atmospheric like Pynchon--two conceits which seem to be in his mash-potato-mush poetics. Here perhaps is a GREAT example of shit lit spurting out okay/above average cinema progeny! It does exist.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-02-22 12:00

    I liked it a lot. It is hard because I kept wanting to compare it to DeLillo's best. It isn't DeLillo's best, but it isn't embarassed by the comparisson to good DeLillo. In someways it reminds me of 2001's answer to Americana (travel, corporate America, the West, relationships, etc). I'm fascinated with Kirn and this won't be the last of this review. However, it is late. I'm flying tomorrow (Ironically) and only half my flight will give me miles.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-03-04 08:03

    Since graduating from college in 1984, I have been working for 27 years. 8-5 M-F without letup except for the allowed vacation leaves. I rarely take sick leaves since I am a healthy person (except the knee sport-related injury two years ago). I spent all of these 27 years working in multinational companies and I left all the 3 earlier companies around the time of their acquisition by bigger companies. I was in those acquired companies so I knew how it felt to be told that my position was no longer needed in the resulting new organization.That’s one of the reasons why I liked this book, Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (born 1962), an American novelist, literary critic and essayist. When this novel, his fourth, came out in 2001, it received some positive reviews and initially sold well until 9/11 when the sales slowed down to a near halt. The reason? Look at the cover of its first edition: It has a cartoon of flying businesspeople, one of them on fire and hurtling earthward. Timing sucked, right? Many office workers jumping to their death from the World Trade Center is just too much of a coincidence.Economic doomsayers say that the 9/11 attack was the start of the economic downfall of the US. I have been feeling the pinch since then because I work for an American multinational company and I have not been asked to travel since November 2009 due to cost cutting. It’s okay though. I have more time with my family, reading books and even seeing movies. In fact, speaking about movies, while reading this book, one of my two reading buddies, Po, gave me as a birthday present the VCD copy of the 2009 supposedly movie adaptation of the book. It stars George Clooney as the corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham. However, the movie is just 10-20% based on the book. When released in 2009, was given a limited release but it was so good it was later given a wide-release before the end of the same year. Then Clooney was nominated for a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, BAFTA and an Academy Award for that year’s Best Actor.The movie was emotionally engaging because it heavily – unlike the book – dealt on corporations downsizing their workforce. There were several scenes – unlike in the book – where Bingham and Natalie Keener (the beautiful Anna Kendrick) were breaking the bad news to the affected employees. It just reminded me of the past 3 companies I worked with when downsizing (in the Philippines, we normally use retrenchment) happened. However, it was only in my first company when I encountered something like Bingham’s job: a counselor that guides the employee through the transition. For me, it was a very good gesture from the company as it really thought of the emotional, not just the financial, impact of losing one’s job in a period of uncertainty due to whatever reason: acquisition, cost cutting, centralization/regionalization of functions or simply world economic depression.After the successful showing of the movie, the book’s cover was changed and the publisher was smart enough to put the image of George Clooney on the cover and so the sale of the book picked up again. The Oscar-nominated role of Clooney was what attracted me to this book. It was also probably the reason why my friend Po recommended to me that we read this as reading buddies. Or maybe to know more about George Clooney and why, despite being 48 years old (during the showing of the movie), his fans still adored him and voted him as one of the world’s sexiest men alive.Despite the many differences between the book and the movie, they still share the same theme and message. Downsizer Ryan Bingham, single and spends more time travelling around the USA, lives a sadder life than the downsized employees who have their families to support and comfort them during the transition. The story also encourages the employees who are facing the reality of losing their jobs to look at it as a “rebirth” rather than loss. Rebirth must be seen as a fresh start, i.e., of doing something that they have not done especially if that something is a job that you truly enjoy but you don’t have the time to explore or try it because of your current employment.

  • Justin
    2019-02-23 05:59

    Saw Jason Reitman's film adaptation in the theater, which I rarely do (see films in the theater, that is... though oddly I've seen all of Reitman's films in the theater), and was intrigued enough by the premise (if not the film itself) to give the book a try.It's weird reading a book after you've seen the movie version of it. Our modern cinematic minds make it difficult for us to strip away all visual and aural context and experience the story in its pure narrative form. Kirn's book is pretty well written, pretty entertaining, and yet something in it was missing for me. I wonder if I was enjoying it less because it didn't pop as much without George Clooney's face looming before me as I reveled in the mile-high exploits of his Ryan Bingham character.Kirn's original protagonist is far more cynical than Clooney's wry, constantly smiling on-screen counterpart. In the novel, Bingham seems pretty miserable to boot, kind of impotent in a way, on a literal and spiritual level. The love interest of the movie is barely an afterthought in the book, and Bingham's attempts to "get intimate" with her are largely failures. Many of the plot points that fueled Reitman's adaptation are missing in the book as well, most glaringly that whole bit about Bingham's company entering the new age via digital firing technology. This is probably because Kirn wrote his book in 2000, when people were only kind of cynical about the advent of the internet on corporate America, and also probably because Kirn is a much more reflective writer than mainstream Hollywood film allows for, and is more interested in ruminating on the nuances of Bingham's shiny, sterile business universe than he is on driving the story along. In fact, not much really happens in Kirn's book. Bingham tries to help his engaged sister (like he does in the movie) but there is no last-minute Hollywood wedding save, and he never becomes a hero. What Reitman preserved best from this book is its breezy, airy tone. Kirn is an extremely amiable, pleasant author, and while we don't like Bingham much by the end of the book, we like his voice—his voice keeps us in it. That's pretty much how the movie got us hooked, too—that and Clooney's face of course.

  • Ashley
    2019-03-06 06:36

    The whole premise of the books is Ryan Bingham travels for TRAVELING is his job...he goes to companies, fires people for them, and then counsels them on how being fired is just an opportunity to find your passion. He's thisclose to acquiring 1 million frequent flier miles, and wants to attain that goal before his boss comes back from vacay and finds Ryan's resignation on his deskI hate being confused by the ending of books, because I generally think I am en excellent reader. But this book...I was sort of lost all the way through. I couldn't really grasp onto the characters, and literally every time a name was mentioned I had to skim back through pages to refresh myself as to who it was, and what the relationship to the main character was.Maybe because he traveled so much, not having a grasp on the characters was the impression I was supposed to get? But, it didn't make reading the book very enjoyable. I've read Thumbsucker by Kirn, and I didn't feel this way, and I really enjoyed it - which is why I think it might be intentional?I started reading it on a business trip, so I cruised through most of it on the plane ride, but once I get home, I had no interest in picking it back up and it took lots of willpower to finish it. Overall: disappointed

  • Hotavio
    2019-02-27 11:56

    I had a hard time determining whether to give this more than one star. While I haven't read enough books that have been reconceptialized via Hollywood, it has always been my understanding that the book is superior to the movie. In this case, I was prompted to read the book after thoroughly enjoying the movie. To my dismay, the book and the movie share fundamental elements and nothing else. The characters have mostly changed (though Ryan Bingham has a similar wit, yet is not as likable), the relationships have changed, and the only parellel in the plot is the goal of reaching the bar on frequent flier miles. While the movie has little plot and is more a satirical take on life, the book has even less plot(dangerously so, in my opinion). I found myself not caring about the names that were thrown around. To be honest, sometimes I didn't know what was being narrated about, nor did I care enough to figure it out. Ryan and Alex's relationship was a euphoric nightmare in the book, nothing like the excitingly illicit, yet ultimately wrenching relationship of the movie. Kudos to the writers of the screenplay for the movie "Up in the Air" because they had their work cut out for them rendering this novel for the masses.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-19 12:37

    I picked up this surprisingly good book because it was in the thrift store, I was about to go on a trip, and I thought the movie was okay. What I liked most about the film were the constant mundane details of business travel. I like cozy little details. I like familiar situations. I like airplanes. All those things are in the book. But if you liked the movie a lot, don't bother with the book. If you loved the goopy (yes, goopy) adult comedy-drama that made it to the screen, you'll hate this intense chronicle of Ryan Bingham's deteriorating mental state. Or is he deteriorating? This was a perfect book to read at an airport or on a plane. Kirn's examination of objects, fellow passengers, belongings, transportation, and destinations quickly made its way into my subconscious as I checked in, navigated through a strange airport, and stood in line at the car rental counter. Walter Kirn is a sharp, consistent, sometimes even breathtaking writer. The subtle undercurrent of instability running through the book left me disturbed and off-kilter. Even Clooney's soothing, persistent voice that I couldn't shake out of my head from the movie version did not help; the story he narrates here has a much unhappier ending.

  • Dave
    2019-03-05 08:50

    For those thinking of extending a pleasant movie experience, put this book away.The only thing that kept me from giving this book less than 2 stars were imagining George Clooney as the main character and the ending which somewhat ties things together. Otherwise this book is everything the movie is not - it doesn't put any energy into the main character's career, the main character is not happy, the main character is not mentoring anybody, much less a pleasant and spunky young go-getter. Perhaps one the biggest disappoints in this novel is that the air world is surprisingly bland. The author promises a rich world of the real America and provides clones of the main character. The lead character is barely likable and many others in the book are not.This is a book for people who are cynical, interested in marketing (the main character looks down on everyone who is 'falling' for marketing), and like books were there is nothing to like about the characters. It also gives a forgotten glimpse of air travel before 911 and cell phones.

  • Peachy
    2019-02-20 08:57

    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

  • Tracie
    2019-03-10 09:39

    When I picked this up at the library, I was thinking of another book, and I also maybe didn't realize it was fiction, even though I was in the fiction section. (The sections in my local library branch aren't hard and fast rules so much as general suggestions, largely ignored.) I was already a chapter in when I realized it was written by Kirn, who also wrote Thumbsucker, which I also disliked. For me, he's trying way too hard to be Chuck Palahniuk, and since I can barely tolerate Palahniuk actual, I have even less patience for his imitators. Also, he switches tense into and out of the second person a lot and I had to go back and re-read sections to figure out who the "you" was, and I have no truck for such a poor handle on grammar. I had a professor mention once that she has a hard time connecting to a written work when she doesn't trust or like the narrator. And ever since she put that into my head, I've had a hard time connecting with a book when I don't connect with the narrator. And Ryan and I couldn't get on the same page. The corporate stuff is a little too heavy handed for me, as well. I think maybe I would have been happier if the whole book had been his conversations with random people on different flights. Probably my one star rating is a little harsh. If I had more distance from this, or more patience and forgiveness in my personality, I'd probably give it 2 stars. I mean, I finished it. And there were parts that were engaging enough to make me want to see how it ended. But it was a chore. And if I'm going to be totally honest, I feel a special animosity towards this book because I selected to read on my beach vacation, so when it felt like a chore I was extra aware because who wants to do a chore on the beach?

  • Meg
    2019-03-04 05:44

    This book is super, super oddball. Half the time it is like, breathless slalom race to crazy! And to be honest that is kind of fun, and things open up a whole lot in the chapters Ryan spends with his sister. Like, a lot, like, if at that point the book had morphed into a road-trip novel, no complaints here. But overall there is so much noodle-throwing at the direction of an over-corporate America, you know, that kind of thing is really exhausting. Really wears on a reader, particularly because Kirn is so arch in his commentary, so sharp that sometimes it winds right back around and feels like it might be genuine praise of dying breeds. I don't necessarily need shadow corporations made of consultants with hilariously revealing names, I kind of prefer the human story lurking on the edges of all that satire. Breaking down the plot you find a lot of care was taken, but sometimes while reading you wonder if it wasn't all written in one angry, angry sitting.I'm very interested to see how Jason Reitman handles the material in the upcoming film version. The Ryan Bingham in this book can be wholly smarmy and work quickly on his feet (Clooney!) but he also has a strange tenderness, a lost quality that I want more of. If we get Michael Clayton Clooney, that would be best.

  • Heidi
    2019-03-08 05:03

    It took me several days to read this book, although it could easily be done in one sitting, which might have been better (many characters, many plot threads). I cannot say this a book that will delight the reader, but I will say the anxiety it begins to create is palpable as you press on toward the end.It is certainly a timely book, given the main character's career path and I felt it depicted the world of corporate self-help perfectly. It was both sad and disturbing. I remember thinking that it captured the self-help crew as well as American Beauty captured suburban malaise.I initially chose the book because of the movie which I haven't seen yet. It will be interesting to see how the book translated this very messy, stream of consciousness style of story telling.So the big question I'm not answering very well is whether I liked the book and I have to say, not really. And yet there were parts, including the last few chapters, which moved me. As a reader along for a chaotic ride, the inner tension grew as that felt by the main character; it was definitely not the "smoothest" ride, rather it jolted you to the end. As I closed the book, I was as glad as any amateur airplane passenger to leave "AirWorld" and return to terra firma.

  • Trish
    2019-02-20 12:41

    Serious displacement occurs when main character Ryan approaches his millionth-mile mark flying with Great West Airlines. Suddenly that goal seems the only thing within reach--more important things slip out of his grasp in inverse relation the closer he comes to his millionth mile. Very funny look at the modern corporate sensibility. Author Kirn implicates us all, but with good humor, and since he skewers everyone, with fairness. To laugh again, at these things that drive one mad, is worth the price of admission. I relish the idea of watching George Clooney play the lead in the film. Seems a singularly inspired choice.

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    2019-03-03 07:42

    Before you ask, no, I haven't seen the movie version that came out recently. I will, but as of this moment I haven't. I have had several people telling me about it though, and they made it sound so interesting, like such a clever satire of American corporate life and the emptiness of the modern business world, that I knew I wanted to read it. I was thrilled to find a copy of the pre-movie edition - I'm one of those people who really hates to get a book with a movie-poster cover. I really don't like them.This is the story of Ryan Bingham. His job title is Career Transition Counselor - or CTC. His job is not to fire people, oh no, he's quick to point out the difference: his job is to help these downsized workers assess their skills, their strengths, figure out their next step and help them get the confidence to find a new job. Or, in other words, to make sure they leave quietly, quickly and hopefully with a smile. He's a kind of consultant, flying around the country to help a whole range of companies get rid of their flotsam. And he hates it.His one goal is to reach 1 million frequent flyer miles. And he's close, so close he's becoming increasingly obsessed about it. He's timed it to the exact mile. His letter of resignation is sitting on his boss's desk, waiting for said boss to get back from his high-flying golfing trip, by which time he'll have flown his last flight and gained his 1 millionth mile. This final week is mostly personal for Ryan. He wants to think he's being head-hunted by MythTech, one of those ultra-modern companies led by a whiz-kid that doesn't actually produce anything - he's not sure what they do, only that he wants to work there. He's also written a book, called The Garage, and is trying to pin down an errant publisher who says he's interested in publishing it. If only the guy would stop lying about where he is and stay put in one place long enough for Ryan to meet with him! Plus he has a business proposition for an old dinosaur legend of the corporate world, and he's due to give a seminar in Vegas.Then there's his family: his younger, screwed-up sister is getting married, again, and now seems to have run away. Plus the wedding gift he sent her isn't the one he picked out, and it's starting to look like someone's using his credit card and even booking flights with his frequent flyer miles. Ryan used to love Air World, but the polish is starting to come off. This last week, as he tries to escape the depressing fruitlessness of his job, is one scare after another. He just needs to stick to his goals, and get that last frequent flyer mile.When I started this book, I fell instantly in love. Written in present tense, in Ryan's somewhat jaded, been-there-done-that voice - yet one that nevertheless can still take pleasure in small things - its dry humour and nostalgic wistfulness captivated me. This was a new world for me, a new perspective - as someone who loves visiting (or living in) other countries, I really don't like flying and spending time in airports. Ryan, on the other hand, loves it. He doesn't even have a home. His stuff is in storage and he gets his mail sent to his office: that's how much time he spends flying here there everywhere. However, after the first third, everything started to get really slow, and my enthusiasm likewise dropped. I was having trouble following Ryan, and it only deteriorated from there. By the last hundred pages, I was struggling. Where is he? What's going on? Who's this again? It became even slower, and I was losing interest in what was happening to Ryan. It was still interesting, but like a long flight I got tired and was just looking forward to getting to the end.As such, it was really disappointing. What was original writing at the beginning became confusing towards the end, and I was disappointed in the direction that the story took. It just didn't grab me, because there wasn't anything else. Even though the scenes with all the awful corporate businessmen and corporate gurus who, in real life, are disgusting figures of weakness to Ryan, are full of black humour (of the dreariest kind), and as a bleak depiction of the private business and just how many people and companies there are out there that don't do anything is quite excellent, the story became so depressing and full of the sharp stink of failure (as projected by Ryan - personally I don't buy into the whole success vs failure rhetoric that is so prevalent in societies like America), that I couldn't wait for it to end.There's so much here to love, there really is. And maybe if I didn't have vague expectations based on what people told me about the movie, I would have been more receptive to that last third. This is the story of a man slowly going down the toilet, and letting himself go. After a while of weird things happening, I had to wonder, is he doing stuff in his sleep? Is he having a Fight Club moment, with another Ryan doing stuff without him realising? All his obsession over the head-hunting business, which people kept teasing him with, pretending they got a call from someone asking about him, and Ryan seeing signs and secret signals in everything - you had to wonder at his sanity. Like I said, I started out absolutely loving this book. I thought I would be raving about it. So it's hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem was, how I came to be so disappointed in it, especially since it's taken me a while to get around to writing this review so my memory's not so fresh. I think maybe the constant moving around without explaining what was happening got to me (I got especially confused when he talked about flying to Ontario - turns out it's some city or suburb in California. And here I was looking forward to his trip to Canada!). I couldn't keep track or keep up. I was especially lost when he took his sister Julie for a jaunt. No idea what was going on there, truly. And then, I think, it just got so bleak and despairing. Ryan became an object of pity. It was hard to sympathise with him when you're just mentally shaking your head at him in this really sorrowful way.Now I just want to see the film. Even from the ads I get the impression they shifted the focus somewhat, made it more ... graspable. That's not a word I know, but I'm getting desperate.

  • Ms. B
    2019-02-20 06:56

    I’m not sure what to say about Up in the Air. I think I expected a lot or maybe I just expected something. Mr. Kirn writes amazing well- but that is it. It wasn’t an amazing story, the characters weren’t very compelling. Everything, but the writing was just sort of “ehhhh.” And I’m going to be honest, when I read a depressing story – I don’t want ehhhh. I want dramatic, compelling, intense and interesting – and well, Up in the Air wasn’t that. There are many people who seem to love this story and I won’t disagree with it’s ability to paint an accurate negative picture of modern American work life … but, everything else about it was just sort of sad and not in a good way. And in the end, all the erratic crazy isn’t chalked up to the sad state of American Life, but an easy catch all explanation. I was left feeling very, very disappointed. The things I loved about the movie just aren’t a part of the book: the charm of George Clooney’s character and the character of Alex is completely and utterly different and the character which Anna Kendrick plays doesn’t even exist. I am told this isn’t the strongest of Walter Kirn's books and maybe a read of some other works will really highlight his true abilities … but I can’t find a good reason to recommend this to anyone, particularly anyone wanting it to read it based on liking the film.

  • Mary Schwenk
    2019-03-03 06:56

    I've got to say that I was really excited to read this book. In almost all previous experiences when a book was turned into a movie, the book was SO MUCH BETTER than the movie. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times. I actually couldn't finish reading it. The character development was so poor that I found myself getting restless as I turned the pages...where was the plot? Where was the relationship progression with other characthers? There was a small section about a woman he sleeps with and a small section about his sisters, but overall it's just a sort of stream of consciousness page after page about airworld and traveling. I was so bored with the lack of plot that I decided to cut my losses and watch the movie. Now the movie was actually very well done and developed all of the characters beautifully, as well as created a plot that was both interesting and bittersweet.

  • Tatiana
    2019-03-19 11:51

    *Spoilers ahead for the book and film!*“To know me is to fly with me.” With an opening line like that, who needs the subsequent 300 pages of pontification? While I read Up In the Air earlier in the year, I only watched the film this morning, and figure now is as good a time as any to write a well-informed review. I knew there would be differences. The screenplay was adapted about eight years after the book was published and the world has obviously changed since then; new issues have taken center stage. The economic climate, for one, has plummeted and with it, employment opportunities. Ryan Bingman, protagonist and narrator of both novel and film, is a professional firer. His job is more relevant to today’s work environment, today’s reality, than it was at the beginning of the decade. One thing I was glad stayed in the novel? Little sister drama.One thing I was glad the film added? Natalie Keener. Not only am I, like George Clooney, on Team Anna, but Natalie represents a women from Generation Me: grappling to reconcile yearnings for traditional family values while simultaneously aspiring for corporate achievement. She also ushers in technology that further ostracizes Ryan, who embodies old-fashioned business practices. Altered from the book is Alex, a character who is not who she seems in either version but for dissimilar reasons. I felt her deception in the film was more despicable, heartbreaking and believable. But it’s worth noting the refreshing flip of gender roles. Alex was the cheater/affair-starter/liar and Natalie snuck out the morning after without waking poor, convenient one-syllable-name Dave.An element I liked in the novel was the trippy quirks that plagued Ryan. He heard voices calling his name from…who knows where, suspected his precious frequent-flier miles were being stolen, had unexplained memory lapses, bouts of déjà vu (or was it plagiarism?), etc., etc., etc. George Clooney’s Ryan wasn’t so disturbed, unless you count the military-grade-precision with which he packed a suitcase. And so I have to mention the separate endings. For a moment there, I thought the film was following in the book’s exact footsteps. You know the line: “Would you like the can, sir?” Can-cer. Get it? No, Novel!Ryan doesn’t have cancer. (He experiences blackout seizures, which we learn only in the final lines of the novel, hence the lapses in recollection.) I think the film would have been labeled maudlin if it had blamed his behavior on illness at the last second. In fact, I felt the film took the more courageous route. Novel!Ryan was a broken, sick man stumbling through his sterile, impersonal existence, relying on constant motion to keep him from acknowledging the circumstances of his reality. Film!Ryan simply lived a lifestyle a-typical to most, and so his beliefs on marriage, material possessions, family, etc. were slanted. The film was his journey to discover what had been lost in his life. Put another way: the movie spent more time than the book filling up Ryan’s empty backpack. The theme of isolation, however, and the argument that we aren’t designed to be alone forever nor are we really living if we have no one to live for, came across overall. Which was better, you ask, the novel or the film? You could go back and forth, debating witty lines against a rambling (in a good way) soundtrack, but I think anything with George Clooney as part of the deal is the natural winner to me. Book: 3 starsFilm: 4 stars

  • Vijay
    2019-03-04 07:52

    I start my review with a digression. I read and saw the movie "Up in the Air" (in that order) around the same time as the release of the Hindi movie "3 idiots" which is inspired from Chetan Bhagath's "5 point someone". The professionalism with which the book to movie adaptation has been done with "Up in the Air" puts the Bollywood junta and Bhagath in bad light. I think the respective movie makers' approach to the material has been similar. They have taken the essence of a novel and spun their own story around it, making it appeal to a different medium. "Up in the Air" succeeds in the professionalism front - author credited properly, movie-book tie-ins, author lets the movie hold its own and is happy in his place. Now I am not sure if Chetan Bhagath was compensated properly but the acriminous tussle with the movie makers post "3 idiots"' release has revealed how much of catching up the Indian entertainers have to do in the legal front of adapting books.===I bought the book in an airport. I even mentioned to the sales lady - "seems appropriate for the place". Leafing through the preface, I noticed that a couple of other novels by Walter Kirn have also made it to the Hollywood mainstream and they are already in my Netflix list without me being accurately aware of it - have been there for a while now. I finished the first half of the book in record time - I was mesmerized by the materialistic pursuit of Ryan Bingham. His career is an extraordinary one. A lay-off specialist. A good job to have if you love not staying in one place and make more acquaintances than relationships. While he is flying from one city to another he has a couple of siblings, who, through phone calls, try and keep him grounded. The lifestyle of Ryan Bingham is fascinating as much as it is repulsive to a 'family man'. Loved the character's personal quirks of having a new word a day and also the detached outlook on everyone and everything coming his way.The one thing that he is not detached from and is actually pursuing with great interest is his million miles reward with a certain airlines. At some point in this nonstop travelogue he steps into Vegas and that's where the book stopped working for me. A sort of psychedelic incoherence seeps into both the character's mental state as wells as the writing. the end is bitter-sweet but by that time I was going through the motions of just finishing the book.It is a good commentary on jet-setters with no roots and I believe I can recollect a few of my own acquaintances who are like that.===The movie also centers around the Ryan Bingham character as well and his quest for a frequent flier reward - 10 million miles this time. The support cast is a little different and far more entertaining than the book. The twist in the movie, which Wifey can't stop talking about, is quick and dirty. George Clooney is perfect for the role. The end in the movie is not a mortal one as it was in the book - at least not of the same kind - but manages to circle back to the beginning of the movie. I like that.

  • Sue
    2019-02-21 12:34

    The Ryan Bingham portrayed in the movie by our hero George Clooney--his confident, airy presence, his attractiveness, pursuits and un-ordinariness--are nothing like the Ryan Bingham in this book. The two seem to be completely separate people.The voice of this novel is a guy you’ve seen a hundred times, and never once noticed. He’s the guy who chats with you during your Minneapolis to Wichita flight, the guy you see at the hotel bar sitting by himself, talking to the bartender. He’s the guy eating alone. Little do we know that his world is the one in which he exists, the one he calls AirWorld. That, alone, gives him one of the most compelling voices in the books I’ve read lately. It’s almost like a view into how other people live, but not those unrealistic people who have unlimited money, beauty and fame. Rather, it’s the everyday Joe who has no connection to others, or maybe a connection that is pulled so thin it feels like none at all.That other-ness is what I felt throughout this book. Adding to the feeling that Ryan gives us is the dual specter of two presences. One is the company MythTech. They exist, we think, but where? Who works for them, and are they recruiting Ryan? Is he auditioning before an unseen audience? Are they sending out “feelers”? Do they even know he exists? The second is the disembodied and the never-seen-but-lurking CEO of the airline of which Ryan is trying to gain 1M frequent flyer miles. Are they helping him or sabotaging his goal? Have they tagged him like a wildlife specimen, examining his movements and choices? These two, along with a multitude of sad, unbalanced and downright bizarre characters give this book a surreal feel.Racing along to catch up with his frenzied pace and manic itinerary, we see a man who is simultaneously focused and empty. His life is full of half-starts and uncompleted projects, all with a veneer of business-speak. He’s chasing a goal you wonder if he’s even all that interested in, but he’s been chasing it so long it has taken on a life of its own. He’s an intriguing character, and I enjoyed the glimpse into his life.

  • Larry Buhl
    2019-03-15 04:46

    I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I love the idea of it, but hate the execution. I guess that means I should hate it. I'm giving it three stars anyway. Brave of Walter Kirn to telegraph, through the narrator, that the book has no plot. He says this as he's leaning over to comment on a seatmate's choice of reading material on one of his many flights. I like bleak, black comedies, though I'm not sure this qualifies as a comedy. More of a stream of unconsciousness musing from a lost, self-loathing man with no place in the world who casually wounds others and himself. To say he is the byproduct of corporate greed and inhumanity is going a bit far... he chose his path and only wants the frequent flier miles because it is the only brass ring available to him in a life that holds no joy. So far so good. But the narrative goes off the rails. It is basically one week in his life, chasing him around the country as his mental state dissolves. By the time we reach Las Vegas, nothing is believable (we had to suspend a good deal of disbelief from the beginning). Like others I saw the movie adaptation; watched it after I read the book. I was curious to see how an unfilmable book with a somewhat loathsome character could turn out for the big screen. Of course the character redeemed himself with the wedding in the film, and realized in the nick of time, that life is worth living and that he needs to connect with others. Lost most of the books acid. The book was better. That's not to say the book was good. If you've ever spent any time on flights, on a company expense account, you might nod in recognition at some of the observations here. He skewers the usual subjects, corporate soullessness for one. In the end though it left me feeling a little bit dirty.

  • Crystal
    2019-03-17 04:38

    Like most, I'm assuming, I have both read and watched the movie adaptation of this story. They are two incredibly different experiences, and I'm surprised to find that I prefer the visual interpretation of Kirn's novel than the actual text. That's not to say, however, that I didn't enjoy this book, although I must assert that it's not for everyone. It's so subtly satirical and has several moments of brilliance. The protagonist (Ryan Bingham/George Clooney) is such a bitter and inwardly wizened character that you can't help but loathe and feel sorry for him at the same time. He begrudgingly allows us to tag along with him as he struggles to obtain his lofty goals of acquiring one million airline miles achieved by strategic manipulations of all the systems established to take advantage of our hopes and dreams. Bingham tries to prove that he's above their charms by being the one to outwit them instead of the other way around. It's an interesting metaphor for the deeper message I think the book tires to promote, which is so many of us try to find meaning in life, either through climbing the corporate latter or marrying the perfect man to show you're capable and worthy of creating the perfect family, that in the end we realize, often too late, that obtaining these goals doesn't change us in the least. We are who we are and that's it, but to acknowledge this fact is unbearable. The movie touches this briefly but has more of a traditional arc thus providing a more comfortable (or rather familiar) ride.

  • David
    2019-03-12 04:55

    Given the amount of buzz the film version of this is generating, I was moved to read it again over the weekend. Sadly, its original 3-star rating didn't hold up - it's even more of a mess than I had remembered. And considerably less fun. Spending 300 pages inside the head of a main protagonist who is undergoing a mental breakdown, and who amounts to little more than a not very interesting caricature, is a dubious pleasure at best. Sure, Kirn gets in a few well-placed zingers at the weirdness that lies at the core of corporate America's culture of middle management, but it's not as satisfying or as entertaining as you might think. Satirizing the prevailing management culture is like shooting fish in a barrel, but in the end the reader, exhausted by 300 pages of unfocused, stream-of-consciousness rambling, is left wondering what point Kirn was trying to make.The huge differences between the film and the original book make this question even more puzzling. Kirn is on record as being "very happy" with the film treatment, despite the fact that the differences between the film and the book far outweigh the similarities. Maybe the explanation is that it's hard to screw up a book which had no clear message to begin with. Confession: I haven't seen the movie version yet, but it's bound to be more entertaining than the book.

  • KJ
    2019-03-21 09:42

    Mmmm.... I listened to this book on CD in the car and maybe it was because it was an audio book or maybe it's because I'm unsophisticated but there were a lot of parts where he lost me. I wasn't sure who was saying what at some points, I couldn't quite understand what the main character was running to or running from. Did he enjoy the rat race and was running for higher status in it or was he running away from it? He was focused on making a certain number of flying miles but I was never sure why or what that exactly represented to him. Did it mean he "won" and "beat the man" or what? I enjoyed how the character talked about the true meaning of why businesses do what - how they twist things to look like they are being generous when it's really them making more money, etc. I liked how a lot of the story was about how full of bullshit a lot of business people are. The writing style was interesting but almost came off as condescending at times though not in a way I minded,it matched the character. You were never sure if the character was a condescending business creep or a normal guy underneath who was wise enough to rise above it. Anyways, main point, the story confused me. As does mine own review here. Did I like it or not? GAH! I'm getting away from this book....

  • Mark
    2019-02-22 11:42

    Unlike apparently everyone else on GoodReads, I liked this novel. Kirn has a smart, witty prose style, and the novel is an interesting combination of Bildungsroman and corporate satire, with a dash of thriller as well. There seem to be very few excellent books about the corporate world, and while I wouldn't call this one excellent, it's thoughtful and provocative, as well as a fun read. The surface snark, including some good material about the nonsense of business books and management consulting, belies some deeper insights into the meaning of work in our daily lives, and the mess that we seem to have gotten ourselves into as a modern society in the early 21st Century.Note: I waited until I read the novel before seeing the movie. I did think the film was clever and in many ways enjoyable (some nice camera work, and Vera Farmiga is brilliant), but it bears few similarities to the novel other than the main character's occupation. While the film does a sort of update on the JERRY MAGUIRE premise a (a crisis of faith of a shallow man), it remains mostly satirical and misses much of the potential for insight offered by the novel.

  • Brent Legault
    2019-02-27 05:54

    I don't normally pick up a book that has been used as a script for the script of a new movie but I've never, until now (to my knowledge), read a book that has been used as a script for the script of a new movie after only seeing the trailer for that film. This novel is slick in the way that Chuck Palahniuk's novels are slick and like Chuck's books this one was probably optioned by a movie studio while it was still being blue penciled by its editors. Why mention Palahniuk? I think it's because Up in the Air shares certain affinities with his work: self-help seminars, split personalities, drugs, self-destructive obsessions. Kirn has all that but with little of the yuck mouth that Palahniuk wallows in. Like most things slick, this novel shines and while I'm not always partial to shiny things (the glare can make my eyes feel gritty) I liked Up in the Air. Kirn's style has an infectious confidence to it. A pilot's confidence.

  • Andrea
    2019-02-24 06:37

    First 200 pages, five stars. Rest of book, two stars. I rarely buy books because of movies, but considering I was browsing this in the airport after having just booked a 4-city itinerary eerily similar to the intro in the book, I thought there just might be something here I could relate to.And there was... to a point. Kirn's "Airworld" is dead on, as are his characters' interactions with it and their consultants lifestyle. There were many things I could relate to in protagonist Ryan Bingham, and a few laugh-out-loud lines. Kirn's portrayal of self-improvement-management speak is gratifyingly perfect; Bingham is authoring his own metaphorical-motivational book which teaches readers about "The Four Plenteous Attitudes" and the "Six False Missions." Priceless.But then things take a turn- Bingham's trip to Vegas feels implausible and a final-page revelation feels weak. I suspect (and hope) the movie will be better...

  • Kristien Kellens
    2019-03-16 10:59

    The book starts off great but somewhere halfway, the story gets a bit too chaotic for my taste. Half of the time I lose track of where the protagonist is going or who he's meeting (or trying to meet). I partly wanted to read this book because the summary on the cover made it sound like it was about the world of air travel and the people in it (I'm an aviation geek), but in fact it has nothing to do with air travel. Not really at least, the whole Airworld thing is just a backdrop for a character study of a person who's going completely downhill and the question really is, if he's going to hit rock bottom or not. Sadly, the whole storyline and writing style was too chaotic for me to really figure out if he did or did not.

  • Nate
    2019-02-26 09:49

    One of those rare instances where the movie is far better than the book.The story has little depth, the characters are one-dimensional, and the author rambles constantly. Luckily, the quick bullet-style statements followed by a few sentences of nothingness is patterned so frequently that skimming just becomes part of the process.When a book makes you a better skimmer, it should just be skipped all together. I've read worse books, and there is definitely something here to this story, but the complete re-write that is needed seems to already have been done by the script of the movie. Watch that instead.

  • Era
    2019-03-01 06:39

    Truthfully, the movie is much better than the book which doesn't say much because the book and the movie had nothing to do with each other. When I went to hear Walter Kirn speak at a Q & A at my university, he mentioned that the movie took about 20% of the book and nothing more. The book has no major plot (something that is actually hinted at in the first few pages) and the main character is not exactly someone you would want to spend your time with let alone read a whole novel about. This is a dark novel and follows the main character on a downward spiral until the story ends and you're left with an empty feeling of disappointment.