David's Reviews > Dear American Airlines

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan  Miles
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's review
Dec 11, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: hideously-vile-protagonists, mind-numbingly-boring, read-in-2008, intellectual-con-artist-at-work
Read in December, 2008

There are exactly two faintly positive things I can say about this book, so let's get them out of the way.

i. It was mercifully short.
ii. It wasn't quite dreadful enough to go on the 'utter dreck' shelf, though its brevity may have been a key mitigating factor.

Although it didn't quite make the 'utter dreck' cut, it was an overhyped, forgettable waste of time. One of those books where, when I read the glowing reviews it has garnered from others, I feel that maybe I live in a parallel universe. I mean, look at everything that the book has going against it:

* it's a first person monolog by Bennie, a writer and translator
* Bennie takes a look back at the mess he's made of his life
* he's a failed poet
* a failed alcoholic poet
* who suffers from terminal omphaloskepsis (OK, no more airport jokes, I promise!) and logorrhea, a combination that bodes ill for the reader
* Bennie has poor impulse control, which unfortunately leads to
* way too many barroom brawl scenes, which are nowhere near as fascinating as the author appears to think;
* introducing New Orleans as a backdrop to spice things up might have worked for John Kennedy Toole; here it smacks of sweaty desperation
* Bennie done his woman wrong; calling her Stella and giving him a locked-outside-the-house-drunk-in-the-alley-scene goes well beyond sweaty desperation and crosses right over into bankrupt imagination territory
* Bennie done wrong by his daughter too. And by his second wife. But I think we could have guessed that
* padding out Bennie's tale of woe by including big chunks of the book he is translating (from Polish), giving a second narrative that unfolds in parallel, sounds like a real neat idea in theory
* but all it did was muddle a story that already had way too many flashbacks even more

The "trapped in O' Hare" aspect of the book is appropriate, however. Because the sensation I had the entire time reading it was the overwhelmingly claustrophobic feeling of being trapped next to a drunken, boorish loudmouth, intent on boring me with every last insignificant detail of everything that had ever happened to him in his insanely uninteresting, fucked-up cliche of a life.

There must be something wrong with me that I actually finished it.

(Bold type indicates a word, phrase, or cliche I've always wanted to use in a review)
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Comments (showing 1-6)

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message 6: by Lena (new)

Lena You have some serious reading stamina. I read the great reviews and thought it was such an interesting premise, but I couldn't get past 30 pages.

message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I love when people give books one star and then do a long review. I just settle back in my chair and pop open a tube of liquid gold. Keep reading these bad books David - so I don't have to!

Kristine LOL I'm in the middle of this and agree. Apparently it's being made into a movie.

Randall Yelverton Not dreck. About being human and how this means owning your failures and forgiving. Powerful stuff.

David See, I have to disagree with Randall, respectfully. I don't dispute that owning one's failures and forgiving can fuel some powerful literature, but the subject matter alone does not confer greatness. Somebody actually has to do the hard work of writing about it in a way that makes it great. Jonathan Miles falls way short.

Molly Agreed. On all points. Who CARES about this whiny old man anyway? That dislike and lack of a connection means to the narrator means zero investment for the reader into his arc from failure to forgiveness. I preferred the random Polish story to be honest.

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