No, not dying. Not just yet.* But already, still at home, the feeling of jet lag begins. Time seems omnipresent, yet too brief. Birthday presents are opened early. I stare at the bag from the pharmacy. Is this any time to try the antipsychotic? (Prescribed for sleep. All doctors hate Ambien, and respond to hearing the name of the drug the way bushmen respond to the scent of wild boar, unless they’re otherwise occupied by appearing on a reality show.) Required reading has been abandoned; already playing hooky by substituting reading one writer for another. I believe myself to be the only writer now reading John O’Hara instead of Peter Taylor, which says nothing about either man, much about me, and has nothing to do with the antipsychotic, as I have yet to work up the courage to ingest a pill.
Fondly, I observe the hummingbirds in the garden: “Greenie” has been feinting during its swirl upward, plotting its faux midair crash into “Blackie” (we aren’t very original in our nicknaming). They sink rapidly, like floaters in opposite eyes, then rise again, in a complex spiral. We’ve been stumped about what to call the almost equally dark hummingbird who has two white spots on its back wings, if you call them wings. This one, we merely call, “the one with white.” (Move over, Wilkie Collins.) Read More
For its front-cabin passengers, United Airlines is turning Rhapsody into the Paris Review of the air, attracting authors like Joyce Carol Oates and Anthony Doerr.
—New York Times, May 3, 2015
Fly first class on United Airlines and you’ll get a complimentary literary magazine called Rhapsody. We’re flattered that the Times has seen fit to compare this lavish bit of swag to the Review. But what to read if you’re stuck in economy with the rest of us? Don’t despair—the “other” Paris Review travels everywhere, and it comes with some perks of its own.
- Stories about the misery that is actual air travel. Rhapsody avoids writing about “plane crashes or woeful tales of lost luggage or rude flight attendants.” But we’ve explored the dark side of the skies since 1978: “The stewardess who smells like a dead dog has already rolled me over so that I won’t aspirate if I vomit” (Dallas Wiebe, “Night Flight to Stockholm,” issue 73).
- Writing about sex. “We’re not going to have someone write about joining the mile-high club,” proclaims the editor in chief of Rhapsody. We make no such promise. As publishers of grown-up stories about grown-up life, we believe in frank depictions of eros—at cruising altitude or any other.
- One one-hundred-seventy-fifth of the cost. First-class flights from New York to Paris start at about seven thousand dollars. You can get a year of The Paris Review for forty bucks.
Subscribe now. You’re first class to us.
The literature of the fear of flying.
Before takeoff, when the flight attendants are acting out the ways we’ll save ourselves in the event of a catastrophe, the same thought always occurs to me: it is possible not to fly. Plenty of people with enviable careers, even careers that require frequent travel, have managed it. The NFL’s John Madden travels across the country in his “Madden Cruiser,” a customized coach bus. Liz McClarnon, the British pop singer and member of the Atomic Kittens, hasn’t been on a plane in four years. Sean Bean (Game of Thrones’s Ned Stark) drives to all of his European film locations. He was finally forced onto a plane to shoot The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, though he refused the helicopter ride to top of the mountain where they were filming, forcing the rest of the cast to wait while he walked up.
Those of us with aviophobia know that flying is safe—it just doesn’t feel safe. During takeoff, the plane forces itself diagonally into the air, pinning us to our seats. We feel the strain as the engines grind, trying to lift an enormous, metal, bird-shaped machine packed with humans into the sky. Why did anyone ever think this was a good idea? The air is not our natural element; the first powered plane only stayed up for twelve seconds. At thirty thousand feet, the sounds are unnerving. The poet James Dickey wrote, “There is faintly coming in / Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space.” It’s hard to think of any sound more terrifying. Read More
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of your favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
There are moments I suspect we are not living in the Golden Age of Travel.
I speak as someone who enjoys nearly everything, mind you, from the novelty of sipping in-flight tomato juice to the thrill of meeting the passenger in the next seat. But even I (a half-wit, apparently) found last Tuesday’s flight to Portugal less than easy going.
We cut it close; my traveling companion, Matthew, was late to meet me and the result was the sort of last-minute dash that’s both exhilarating and draining. I was allowed in an accelerated line for irresponsible travelers but found myself behind a man who not only seemed in no hurry but had to remove three pieces of heavy jewelry, one at a time, each time the metal detector went off. He did so with an infuriatingly sanguine smile. I hated and envied him. Passengers were boarding when I sprinted up, some ways ahead of Matthew. The gate, C71, and the plane were absolutely crammed with some forty assorted kids, ranging in age from about eleven to fifteen. One of their chaperones, a hearty lady in a tracksuit, explained to me they were on their way from Indiana to an international cheerleading competition three hours outside of Lisbon. When I arrived at 29A (aisle) I discovered the middle seat, intended for my traveling companion, was occupied by a tween of some thirteen years. She and her friend regarded me with terrified bravado. “If you’re sitting here,” one of them said quickly, “you should know that we have to sit together. We’re roommates.”