Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Up in the Air & "What are you reading?"

Here's what I wrote to a friend in email....about Up in the Air, seen recently with another friend:

I have been thinking about the movie since I saw it. At the end, he stares at the infinity of choices of where to go with his remaining 9 million miles and lets go of the handle of his last bit of luggage. This makes me think he has let go of everything, job included, and is truly up in the air at the end, in the final narration, when he says that's him, that blinking light up there, when you look up into the night sky.

I think he was as changed by the young woman as she was changed by him and by going around on the job and seeing the effect of being fired on all those people. The suicide was the last straw for her. The loss of his last chance to connect/commit to someone was the last straw for him. I think when he drops the letter of recommendation off at work and heads out the door, it is his last time in that workplace, really, even if he doesn't realize that till he gets to the airport and lets go of his luggage handle. As his love interest closes the door on him, she says to her husband, "It's just some guy who's lost," and she's right. He's lost now, not knowing where he can land. So he might stay up in the air for quite some time, 9 million miles of time. And he was lost long ago, and now he knows it. When his sister says, "You are non-existent to us," and gives him a chance to exist/connect, he learns about that.

To me, there's a nice little paradox here. He is both lost and found, both homeless and better off. Ironically, what he says to the people he fires about now being able to follow their dreams sort of comes true for him. Now, detached from everything, he can follow his dream of being up in the air forever.

All the good he did came from human connection--he convinced the fiance to marry his sister, gave them honeymoon miles, helped young woman get better job, brought joy to a lover. His lover, who was already connected to her family, also brought him joy, on what she thought were his terms--no attachment whatsoever, no worries. Having a little freedom & joy with him allowed her to stay connected to her family without treating them as things to stuff in a backpack and leave behind in an airport; whatever we think of her for doing that, it was consistent with what he was doing and what he was advocating in his public talks. I don't think she misled him; she just didn't burden him with the "luggage" of her own life, which is what she thought it would be to him.

If I think of my human connections as "luggage" or burdens, I, too might be lost or might be careless of the feelings of others, might become the kind of person who can fire people for a living. If I think of my human connections, to you or anybody else I care about, as joyful and good, I feel light and free, but still attached.

But I wrote this to a friend, and saw the movie, without having read the book. Must read book. Heard partial interview with author, who sees the book and the movie as separate things, so I will, too.

Saw Julie & Julia again, and fell asleep, but that wasn't the movie's fault. And I was awake through the blog project genesis, and have been thinking further about this. I want to know what people are reading. By reading, I think I mean books. Printed books. I read magazines and journals, too, and both print and online media, but I want to find out who is still reading books. Which ones, and why.

Today a fellow came into the bookstore--on this snowy, windy day, a "snow day" off school, in fact--and bought 4 books. Used bookstore, so a great deal--4 books for $16! He was from out of town and had to drive back in the wind and snow on the icy road...and had he driven all that way just to come to our used bookstore? No, I think he was in town for something else but couldn't leave without coming to our store. He was looking for Michael Pollan. So I know what he wants to be reading. We had a first edition of Pollan's gardening book for $35, not so affordable. But he found a nice range of other books, including Louise Erdrich.

So what I want to know, from somebody, daily, is, "What are you reading?"


Peter Reilly said...

I wanted to check out your bookstore, but the link sends to a bad search results page.

Kathleen said...

Sorry, Riles, I will try to fix it...

Kathleen said...

Oh, THAT link1 That's the one under the label "Links to My Work," so it links you to my work, as do the other two! I will see about adding a link to the bookstore's home page. And, generally, I link book titles to Amazon pages, or particular Babbitt's books to Babbitt's search pages....if the book sells, that entry will indeed disappear.