Title: Up in the Air
Author: Walter Kirn
Pages to date: 1,092
The snippet of a review from the Wall Street Journal on the back cover promised a lambasting of corporate America and Up in the Air did not disappoint in that respect. Kirn's story of a tired road warrior trying to cross the million mile mark before his boss finds his letter of resignation pulls no punches, truly showing the dark side of capitalism. I happen to be a huge fan of the recent film adaptation starring George Clooney and I was pleased that the book was very different than the movie. While some things remain the same, the plot is extremely different outside of a few repeated quotes (ex: "I'm like my mother, I stereotype - it's faster.") and characters.
Honestly, while I think that an honest examination of the seedy underbelly of our society's business practices is a necessary endeavor, Up in the Air can go full blown cynic. For example, one line states "He knows, as all the cleverest ones do, that no human being is so interesting that he can't make himself more interesting still by acting retarded at random intervals." Dismissing all idiosyncrasies that people have as acts to draw attention is simply too broad, too generalized to possibly be accurate- a criticism that could be made of most of Kirn's negative portrayals of the American businessman's ethics. Furthermore, each chapter begins with a lower case letter, while an artistic decision that has no impact on the overall quality of the writing, and that really irked me.
An interesting look at the state of American business, particularly the hypocrisy Kirn portrays as rampant, but overall too generally cynical to be accepted as a valid summary of our ethical woes. Perhaps I am simply still too naive, but the bleak and desolate portrayal of American culture was simply too narrowly negative for me to buy into.