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 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.
The message of Kirn's new novel is that the "dark Satanic mills" that power the capitalist system no longer run on the sweat of the laboring masses they are now fueled by the hot air of the therapeutic-industrial complex, that weird construct made of a thousand management strategy companies and their attendant conferences. In this world, being fired has been euphemized into "career transition." Ryan Bingham is a career transition counselor for a firm based in Denver. His ultimate goal is accumulating one million frequent flier miles, but he has a few other projects he hasn't told headquarters about. He's written a business allegory, for one thing, which he hopes to place with a management science publisher. He also wants to market Sandor Pinter, a Peter Drucker like management guru, through posters, coffee cups and the usual familiar detritus of pop culture. His most important and hush-hush project is to jump ship to MythTech, a mysterious Omaha company renowned for its esoteric management consulting. On the periphery of Ryan's consciousness is his sister Julie's upcoming wedding, but his disconnection from his family is evident. Kirn is trying to create the New Economy Babbitt, the perpetual haunter of first class and airport bars. Unfortunately, Ryan is not only an uninteresting character, bloated, shallow and incorrigibly explicative tell (and tell and tell...), not show, seems to be his motto but is uninterested in others. Crowding the page, he smothers Kirn's bursts of astringent humor and obscures any broader perspective on 21st-century corporate culture.
I feel dirty saying this, but...
the movie was better.
I picked this book up because I've seen the movie about a hundred times. But this book is nothing like the movie. You really feel you get to know the narrator, but he's very human in a lot of ways. I won't share so as not to spoil the book. But it is deeper than just the basic premise it shares with the movie. I finished rather quickly because I couldn't put it down. Happy reading!
I loved the movie a lot so I thought this would be a great book. Honestly, it wasn't even close. The dialogue is fairly difficult to understand, and the plot kind of bounces around all over the place without any notice.