Reading guide for The Man Who Ate The 747 by Ben Sherwood

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The Man Who Ate The 747

By Ben Sherwood

The Man Who Ate The 747

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The novel’s first chapter features a couple trying to break the world record for the longest kiss. What does this episode tell us about J.J.’s perspective on love? What is the significance of all the world records in the novel?

  2. What drives so many people to go to such lengths to appear in J.J.’s Book of Records? What keeps J.J. from possessing their ambition, determination, and optimism?

  3. Why does Wally go on eating the plane even when it fails to impress Willa? Does he actually crave the grindings, or is this something he simply endures in the name of love?

  4. In her newspaper editorial, Willa asks readers to admire Superior for its everyday accomplishments, not for the fact that one resident is eating a 747. Do you consider Superior to be an apt name and setting?

  5. Ben Sherwood writes that the plane gives Wally wings. In what way is this true? How does Wally inspire other characters to take flight? What are the different notions of greatness in the novel?

  6. What causes Wally’s health scares? What does he teach us about devotion and sacrifice? Why was he unable to recognize Rose’s love at first?

  7. Sherwood worked as a television news producer for many years. Do you detect any journalistic influences in his writing, or do you feel the book’s magical realism reflects the opposite of a reporter’s perspective?

  8. Discuss Willa’s little brother, who anonymously brings Wally to J.J.’s attention and has his own dreams of setting a record. In what way is he the opposite of his sister? In what way is he a reflection of her?

  9. J.J. has a startling ability to recall hundreds of statistics and reduce emotional responses to a litany of neurochemistry. Does his penchant for data mirror our society in any way? Why is J.J. best able to rescue his heart in such a rural locale?

  10. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love or that’s been done for you? What world record would you want to break to prove your devotion?

  11. Wally appears to have a special bond with the airplane that has been rejected and abandoned just as he has. What else does the 747 symbolize?

  12. What are the competing definitions of love in this novel? What defines a great couple? Is J.J. a better match for Willa than Wally?

  13. What inspires the residents of Superior to finish off the 747? Have any similar incidents occurred in your community?

  14. In the end, J.J. asks for new submissions to The Book of Wonders. What story from your own life would you submit?

  15. What does this novel ultimately say about love and extraordinary behavior? Who are the book’s real heroes?

    Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bantam Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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