Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge
A Novel

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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.


About Paul La Farge

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Paul La Farge is the author of two novels: The Artist of the Missing (FSG, 1999) and Haussmann, or the Dis­tinction (FSG, 2001); and a book of imaginary dreams, The Facts of Win­ter. His short stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Harper's Magazine, Fence, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. His nonfiction appears in The Believer, Bookforum, Playboy, and Cabinet. He lives in upstate New York.
Published September 27, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 257 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Luminous Airplanes

The New York Times

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When the book opens, the Internet bubble has just burst, and the narrator — unmoored by the crash and also by the death of his grandfather — returns to upstate New York, to the fictional town of Thebes, where he spent childhood summers under his grandparents’ care.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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His late grandfather's favorite book, Progress in Flying Machines, published in 1894 and thus "a catalogue of failures," prompts the narrator to think about a Millerite's proposed method of reaching heaven: an "ascension robe" like "a little luminous airplane."

Aug 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

Los Angeles Times

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Throw down the book and seek out the website that complements the book — — and where La Farge has indexed characters, themes and segments of his novel.

Oct 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Until now, novelist Paul La Farge has been known as the stylish perpetrator of a literary Piltdown Man -- Paul Poissel, an early-twentieth-century Frenchman whom La Farge invented to "write" Haussmann, or the Distinction, an excellent novel about the nineteenth-century Parisian city planner, and ...

Oct 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

Time Out New York

Paul La Farge's new novel, Luminous Airplanes, makes a comparison between reading contemporary fiction and being stuffed headfirst into a sleeping bag: It's a claustrophobic experience, yet a cozy and comfortable one.

Nov 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

Strether bows to her and she thinks, Fuck me, unfuck me, fuck me, fuck me!

May 16 2013 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

(Even Wikipedia can’t help but gush, describing him as “a contemporary Don Quixote.”) He was also, of course, a founding editor of The Paris Review.

Nov 10 2017 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

cummings’s poem beginning “in / Just spring,” and Emily Dickinson’s “A Light exists in Spring.” Sadie loves Elizabeth Bishop’s “In Early Spring” and the Dickinson poem that starts “A little Madness in the Spring / Is wholesome even for the King” (though she admits it gets “a little odd” as it goe...

Apr 08 2014 | Read Full Review of Luminous Airplanes: A Novel

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