Up In the Air by Walter Kirn

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Ryan Bingham’s job as a Career Transition Counselor–he fires people–has kept him airborne for years. Although he has come to despise his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls “Airworld,” finding contentment within pressurized cabins, anonymous hotel rooms, and a wardrobe of wrinkle-free slacks. With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss’s desk, and the hope of a job with a mysterious consulting firm, Ryan Bingham is agonizingly close to his ultimate goal, his Holy Grail: one million frequent flier miles. But before he achieves this long-desired freedom, conditions begin to deteriorate.

With perception, wit, and wisdom, Up in the Air combines brilliant social observation with an acute sense of the psychic costs of our rootless existence, and confirms Walter Kirn as one of the most savvy chroniclers of American life.

About Walter Kirn

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WALTER KIRN is a contributing editor to Time and GQ and a regular reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, GQ, Vogue, New York, and Esquire. He is the author of four previous works of fiction: My Hard Bargain: Stories, She Needed Me, Thumbsucker, and Up in the Air. He lives in Livingston, Montana.
Published August 13, 2002 by Anchor. 386 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Up In the Air

Kirkus Reviews

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Saturated with smart irony and ripe with a sense of dislocation, this third novel from the fiction editor of GQ (Thumbsucker, 1999, etc.) takes readers on a frenetic tour of Airworld, that in-flight zone of business travel where destinations bleed invisibly into connections, and connections beco...

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Publishers Weekly

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The message of Kirn's new novel is that the "dark Satanic mills" that power the capitalist system no longer run on the sweat of the laboring masses—they are now fueled by the hot air of the therapeutic-industrial complex, that weird construct made of a thousand management strategy companies and t...

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AV Club

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Officially, Ryan Bingham, the philosophizing antihero of Walter Kirn's witty and deftly excoriating satire Up In The Air, resides in Denver, where he works as a "career transition counselor" (in other words, he fires people) for a business-management company.

Apr 19 2002 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air

Entertainment Weekly

Kirn, an astute book critic and a promising novelist (Thumbsucker), begins his new novel with a four-page, six-day, 10-city itinerary.

Aug 03 2001 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air

Suite 101

Rhoda and Samuel each have problems but together they could be successful..

Apr 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air


When a book I like is made into a movie, I value the not-a-movie-tie-in copy all the more — it makes me feel sad and cheap to read a book that’s wearing a big “Now a Major Motion Picture!” sticker.

Jan 24 2010 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air


Ryan’s boss - played by Jason Bateman, doing unctuous as only he can, like a 21st-century Dabney Coleman - has brought in a sharp young woman named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) to slash the company’s travel budget by 85 percent.

Dec 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air

Broad Street Review

(I haven’t seen Thank You for Smoking, but I just put it at the top of my Netflix queue.) This respect extends beyond the main characters to the dozens of people whom we see Ryan firing, many of them real workers who recently lost their real jobs.

Jan 25 2013 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air

Ken Greenleaf

I didn't think any action hero could sustain as much damage as Arnold Schwarzenegger did in The Last Stand , but Jason Statham as the title thief in this adaptation of the Richard Stark (a/k/a Donald E.

Dec 02 2009 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air


Bringing Alex along for fun, and just maybe because he feels something special for her, Ryan suffers the scorn of older sis Kara (Amy Morton) for having escaped the family ordinariness but also uses his mediating skills to put some difficulties right.

Sep 06 2009 | Read Full Review of Up In the Air

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