In September 2000, a young programmer comes home from a festival in the Nevada desert and learns that his grandfather has died, and that he has to return to Thebes, a town which is so isolated that its inhabitants have their own language, in order to clean out the house where his family lived for five generations. While he's there, he runs into Yesim, a Turkish American woman whom he loved as a child, and begins a romance in which past and present are dangerously confused. At the same time, he remembers San Francisco in the wild years of the Internet boom, and mourns the loss of Swan, a madman who may have been the only person to understand what was happening to the city, and to the world.
Luminous Airplanes has a singular form: the novel, complete in itself, is accompanied by an online "immersive text," which continues the story and complements it. Nearly ten years in the making, La Farge's ambitious new work considers large worlds and small ones, love, memory, family, flying machines, dance music, and the end of the world.
La Farge has done a masterful job creating a world that is at once emotionally real and self-consciously literary on every page. The prose is sharp and beautiful, and the characters are so engaging they may lull the reader into thinking of Luminous Airplanes as a conventional novel. It isn't... [But it] is as delicately constructed as a lyric poem - every detail is carefully connected by the finest of threads. The story is funny and loving and imaginative, and at every turn there is evidence of a keen and generous intelligence at work behind the scenes. This is a book that demands to be read again. (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).
This textbook example of the WMFUN (white male fuck-up novel) lacks the humor and cynicism of Sam Lipsyte's Home Land, but Le Farge's narrator is far more likable than Lipsyte's thanks to his numerous expressions of regret regarding his bad behavior throughout the novel.
Starred Review. Where so much experimental fiction seems pessimistic or even cynical about its possibilities, this novel sustains a spirit of innocence and wonder.
Starred Review. [A] brilliantly imagined novel... La Farge spins his tale with the grace of an acrobat.
Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! Luminous Airplanes is a coming of age story like none other I've ever read, one that seems to exists simultaneously in the past and the present, in plausible futures and science-fictional realms. Luminous Airplanes is brilliant, poignant, startling, hilarious, and a really, really fun read. I loved it.
Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
This is one of the best works of fiction to come my way in a long time. Paul La Farge writes beautifully, with wit, humor and passion. He has created as thoroughly imagined a world as you would expect from Chekhov or Flaubert, and has bestowed upon two fictional families enough sympathy and care to rank himself among the best of parents. Luminous Airplanes is a quiet triumph of a book.
According to an article in Time Out Chicago (August 2011), "Paul La Farge might be the greatest American writer you haven't read, but now there's no excuse." He has been constructing a solid home for himself in American letters since his first published novel in 1999.
With a flavor of European modernism, The Artist of the Missing (1999) is a story about a young artist searching for his parents in a bewildering urban landscape. It was awarded a California Book Award for the best first novel of 1999. La Farge describes how he wrote his first draft of the story over the course of 21 days, and then revised it for 2 years. It went on to be rejected by 34 publishers before finding a home with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Haunting woodcut illustrations by artist Stephen Alcorn accompany the text.
Haussmann, or the Distinction (2001) also exists within a modernist...
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
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