Sunday, June 6, 2010
The Joy of Flying
Jonathon Miles’ first novel “Dear American Airlines” began as an enraged letter of complaint to American Airlines for stranding him in O’Hare airport. Jonathan Miles was a free lance writer flying on American Airlines from Memphis to New York City. Due to “bad weather” the plane landed in Peoria, Illinois and the passengers were all bused to Chicago's O’Hare Airport. As Mr. Miles attempted to sleep on the floor of the airport he began a letter of complaint to American Airlines for the discomfort, inconvenience, interruptions, etc. etc. As he wrote the letter it changed in his mind from a letter about himself to a letter from someone who really could have significant, immediate issues with American Airlines.
Jonathan Miles’ protagonist becomes Benjamin “Bennie” Ford, a translator of Polish fiction who is on his way to his daughter’s wedding/commitment ceremony. The letter becomes Bennie’s lament of his life but not until he has demanded his money back in no uncertain or polite terms. But as Bennie settles into the duration of his stay at O’Hare airport he begins to relate how he got to O’Hare airport on this day. Bennie is living in New York with his mother, a stroke victim who communicates via “Post-its“. And yes there is a great deal of humor and pathos involved in Bennie’s lament. Bennie’s father was a Polish seminarian who ended up in a concentration camp. He came to America, changed his name from Henryk Gniech to Henry Ford, and became an exterminator. He met Bennie’s mom as he was exterminating a possum from her family’s attic. Bennie grows up and becomes a poet, a bartender and an alcoholic. Then he meets Stella a published poet and they try to fall in love. On the way, beautifully retold by Bennie, they beget young Stella whose wedding Bennie in on the way to when he gets derailed by American Airlines. The fact that Bennie has not seen young Stella since she was an infant adds to the humor and sadness of Bennie’s story. The fact that he might miss his chance to finally connect with young Stella adds a tremendous amount of fuel to Bennie’s lament.
Along with this very involved life story Bennie is telling, is the added dimension of the novel that Bennie is translating from Polish to English. Jonathan Miles is drawing a comparison between the protagonist in the story he is translating and Bennie’s life story. It is very interesting how the author is able to compare the two men and lead the reader to a satisfactory conclusion for both men, but not without many digressions. These digressions make for a wonderful, amusing, insightful story.
Jonathan Miles has written a short novel (180 pages) that is entertaining, poignant and well written. It is a story that gives the reader many issues to contemplate and maybe by chance will give readers a chance to “enjoy” an unanticipated layover in a random airport.