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August 03, 2009

Flight Patterns: A Century of Stories about Flying

Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion are
among the writers whose
stories make up
Flight Patterns.

Photo courtesy of Open City

by Ondine Cohane

Flying provokes myriad emotions for many of us: excitement, fear, the thrill of adventure, discomfort, a sense of escape and claustrophobia among them. A newly released anthology, Flight Patterns: A Century of Stories about Flying, edited by Dorothy Spears, features writings from aviation pioneers like Orville Wright, Charles A. Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart to more contemporary musings on this mode of transport from authors like Thomas Beller, Walter Kirn, and David Sedaris. It's a good read, from tragic military tales to a teenager's awkward introduction to the mile high club to the final chapter of Beryl Markham's memoir, West with the Night, where she writes, "I could ask, 'Why risk it?' as I have been asked since, and I could answer, 'Each to his element.' By his nature a sailor must sail, by his nature a flyer must fly."

This particular correspondent has a real fear of flying. I dislike the lack of control; at each bout of turbulence, I worry that my future plans will be lost in an instant. I muscle through, though, because I love traveling too much. Reading the anthology was a good exercise: I realized how psychologically loaded flying is for most of us, and also how it provokes great writing. Available from Open City Books, $15.95.

Further reading:
* Ondine on the importance of a good GM
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide


I spent about two minutes perusing this in a bookstore and bought it. Amazing array of writers. I read a story a night before bed, sometimes two or three.

I'm reading it now-Its sublime,fun and moving!Its scope is truly profound...its the history of the 20th Century.

a quintessential book for the traveler. i started reading on the plane. from james salter's exquisitely honed portrayal of the life of a war pilot to mary gaitskill's ruthless "girl on the plane," i couldn't put it down. beautifully edited by dorothy spears.

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