“Luminous Airplanes” by Paul LaFarge has to be one of the strangest books I have read this year and yet it was a fulfilling and deeply satisfying read. I guess it was that maybe because of its oddness, which yet managed to find a place in my heart and mind. It is a coming of age story (or so it seemed like that to me) and doesn’t feel like it. There is a lot more to it, which obviously I will not reveal in my review. This was the first time I was reading a Paul LaFarge and I can only say that there are some reading finds that you are thankful for every year and this is one of mine.
Luminous Airplanes follows the life of a San Franciscan computer programmer, fond of iconic T-Shirts, as he travels back to his grandparents’ house in upstate New York to dismantle and organize it after the death of his grandfather. There he meets his “boyhood” friends – a brother and a sister, who have not only become distant but also weird. He then chances upon family secrets and that is where the book begins. That in short, is the plot of the book.
The book is very-well written and yet it had me confused at times. I had to go to the website, http://www.luminousairplanes.com , which deconstructs the book chapter by chapter and is also a hyperlinked novel, another brilliant experience. Paul LaFarge has created something strange and it worked just fine for me. I found the writing sparse at times and at times a little too detailed, but whatever my emotions were at the time of reading the book, at the end of it all, I felt so satisfied. The two cities, San Francisco and New York are brilliantly described, as though they are the secondary characters in it. The novel is written in the style of a memoir and it works best considering the setting and plot of the book.
The tone of “Luminous Airplanes” is mellow and tastes like hot chocolate. The words go on and on sometimes, so much so that I had to go back to the pages read before to make sense of them. “Luminous Airplanes” could be very confusing at times, but if you read through it and connect with it, then maybe it is the read for you, as it was for me. Well, it was one of the reads for me this year for sure.