Summary and book reviews of Luminous Airplanes by Paul LaFarge

Luminous Airplanes

A Novel

by Paul LaFarge

Luminous Airplanes
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2011, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2012, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Book Summary

A decade after the publication of Haussmann, or the Distinction, his acclaimed novel about nineteenth-century Paris, Paul La Farge turns his imagination to America at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

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.

ONE
CONTACT WITH OTHER WORLDS

I had just come home from a festival in Nevada, the theme of which was Contact with Other Worlds, when my mother, or, I should say, one of my mothers, called to tell me that my grandfather had died.

"I've been trying to reach you for days," she said. "Where were you?"

I told her I'd been camping. I didn't tell her I was at a pagan celebration where people danced around bonfires, a kind of dress rehearsal for the end of the world. I didn't mention the huge glowing fish or the women with wings.

Celeste told me that my grandfather had died on Thursday morning, around the time when I was leaving San Francisco in my friends' big white RV. My uncle Charles found him collapsed at his desk. He'd had a heart attack, the doctor said. His death was quick and probably not painful.

"That's good," I said, still dazed from the drugs I'd taken at the festival and the nights I'd gone without sleep. "When is the funeral?"

"It was this morning."

"You had it ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] brilliantly imagined novel... La Farge spins his tale with the grace of an acrobat.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Where so much experimental fiction seems pessimistic or even cynical about its possibilities, this novel sustains a spirit of innocence and wonder.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

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Beyond the Book

The Novels of Paul La Farge

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.

Paul La Farge 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 ...

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