Book Cover
Rate this book
5 stars
347 (9%)
4 stars
1,007 (27%)
3 stars
1,279 (35%)
2 stars
655 (18%)
1 star
346 (9%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 766 reviews
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,339 followers
December 14, 2008
There are exactly two faintly positive things I can say about this book, so let's get them out of the way.

i. It was mercifully short.
ii. It wasn't quite dreadful enough to go on the 'utter dreck' shelf, though its brevity may have been a key mitigating factor.

Although it didn't quite make the 'utter dreck' cut, it was an overhyped, forgettable waste of time. One of those books where, when I read the glowing reviews it has garnered from others, I feel that maybe I live in a parallel universe. I mean, look at everything that the book has going against it:

* it's a first person monolog by Bennie, a writer and translator
* Bennie takes a look back at the mess he's made of his life
* he's a failed poet
* a failed alcoholic poet
* who suffers from terminal omphaloskepsis (OK, no more airport jokes, I promise!) and logorrhea, a combination that bodes ill for the reader
* Bennie has poor impulse control, which unfortunately leads to
* way too many barroom brawl scenes, which are nowhere near as fascinating as the author appears to think;
* introducing New Orleans as a backdrop to spice things up might have worked for John Kennedy Toole; here it smacks of sweaty desperation
* Bennie done his woman wrong; calling her Stella and giving him a locked-outside-the-house-drunk-in-the-alley-scene goes well beyond sweaty desperation and crosses right over into bankrupt imagination territory
* Bennie done wrong by his daughter too. And by his second wife. But I think we could have guessed that
* padding out Bennie's tale of woe by including big chunks of the book he is translating (from Polish), giving a second narrative that unfolds in parallel, sounds like a real neat idea in theory
* but all it did was muddle a story that already had way too many flashbacks even more

The "trapped in O' Hare" aspect of the book is appropriate, however. Because the sensation I had the entire time reading it was the overwhelmingly claustrophobic feeling of being trapped next to a drunken, boorish loudmouth, intent on boring me with every last insignificant detail of everything that had ever happened to him in his insanely uninteresting, fucked-up cliche of a life.

There must be something wrong with me that I actually finished it.

(Bold type indicates a word, phrase, or cliche I've always wanted to use in a review)
Profile Image for Kate.
649 reviews117 followers
June 23, 2008
Entirely dysfunctional airline industry as a metaphor for entirely dysfunctional American life--abysmal failures to meet expectations and make connections, mounds of baggage nobody knows what to do with, and that sickening, existential feeling that life can be a vastly unfair, bureaucratic wasteland in which nobody cares. The writing is brilliant--fresh hysterical descriptions of being stuck forever in the hell hole that is O'Hare side by side with a surprisingly deep story of a human life gone badly awry. This is hilarious, pathetic, sad, cynical, hopeful--all of it. I was totally taken by it. Miles' humor sucked me into the story and left me overwhelmed, and then suddenly satisfied, at the end. I couldn't put it down. HIGHLY recommended!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
98 reviews22 followers
August 20, 2008
I had such high hopes for this book. The idea of wrapping a narrative within an angry letter to an airline, written while stuck at an airport for hours, is a clever one. Unfortunately, the writing itself goes over the top with clever, adopting an inronic, winking voice that quickly grows old. You never really care about the main character, mostly because his motives hide behind so many layers of smug attitude, coming from the character and the author himself. Plus, the narrator is a translator, which brings in a competing narrative that's distracting and brings nothing but an urge to skip entire pages to the book. In the end, good idea for a book but poor execution.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,669 reviews2,664 followers
June 9, 2017
“Airports are petri dishes for boredom, rage, nicotine withdrawal, and gastrointestinal discomfort.” During an unexpected overnight layover in Chicago, Bennie Ford writes an extended letter to American Airlines, ostensibly to demand his $392.68 back, but really to tell the story of his life, including how his mentally unstable mother, Miss Willa, fell for a Polish exterminator, his road to alcoholism, and his volatile relationship with Stella and their daughter. Said daughter, also named Stella, is getting married in California tomorrow, and it’s Bennie’s chance to make things right after years of estrangement. Will he make it to the wedding or not? The structure of the book means that it doesn’t particularly matter, and I stopped caring a little bit as it went on. The sections of a novel Bennie is translating from the Polish felt particularly irrelevant to me. Still, quite amusing, and a good one to read in the airport and on a plane, as I mostly did. The tone, funny but apologetic and ultimately sincere, reminded me most of Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.
Author 6 books9 followers
July 17, 2008
Too clever by half, as the British say.

Everyone was ballyhooing this book upon its publication.

So I plunked down for a nice hardcover addition.

Everyone knows the concept: one-time drunk, has-been poet, current translator rehashes his life story in a long, long, l-o-n-g letter of complaint to the air carrier that's left him stranded in O'Hare, missing his estranged daughter's wedding/commitment ceremony.

Nice concept.

Execution is fine and funny. Writer Jonathan Miles has a fine ear for a comic phrase.

The problem is: the comedy is in the writing, not the story. It's a funny guy making smart remarks about otherwise sad, improbable or banal events.

Similarly for the putative depth of the book: there's a Polish novel and jokes about modern poets and bar brawls. But the depth is in the characters, not the book.

I enjoyed the first 50 pages, then slogged through the rest.

Finally, as they say in Hollywood, there's no third act. The book doesn't end so much as stops.

Perhaps whoever adapts it to a screenplay will discover an ending.
Profile Image for AdiTurbo.
720 reviews79 followers
December 14, 2015
My thoughts so far:

Rage, rage and more rage - this is what this book is all about. Seemingly rage against a company who wouldn't deliver good service, but really rage against life itself, and all the disappointments we get from it. It's maddening that things don't go as we planned, that things go wrong, that everything is really shit, or at least, much less glorious than what they made us think as children. We were full of promise then, and now, we're just like everybody else - struggling to survive in an unkind world with no mercy, and with all of our own faults that turn our lives sour. So far, I'm loving it - very powerful writing, very powerful emotions, much honesty.

Stopping at 40%:

Started out very promising, but never moved along. It's just more and more of the same. Can't take anymore of the bitterness - I have enough of my own, thank you very much. The main character is pretty aweful, especially in regards to his attitude towards women. He seems incapable of love. The novel tries so hard to come off as sophisticated and ironic, it sweats. I don't like sweat.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews133 followers
April 18, 2017
I listened to the audio version of this book and it was narrated by Mark Bramhall.

Bennie Ford is a 53 year old man, on his way to California to attend his daughter's wedding.... the daughter he has not seen since she was an infant. Bennie's flight, as so often happens, is canceled and he ends up at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, which puts in doubt his ability to make it to the wedding. Bennie and his fellow travelers are outraged over their thwarted travel plans; but in between 'smoke breaks', Bennie's outrage moves him to compose a letter to the airline... Dear American Airlines,.....

You get the sense from the first lines of Bennie's letter that his outrage is only partially connected to the interruption of his travel plans; there is a desperation underlying his words. Bennie, a failed poet but current translator of other people's poems, begins a letter demanding a refund from American Airlines but ends up pouring out all the desperation, regret and loss of his 53 years.

What starts out as an expression of frustration with the airline turns into a venting and raging against his life, fate and yes, even his failings. You discover that there is much more at stake for Bennie than just attending his estranged daughter's wedding.... it seems to be a type of closure for him.. being able to keep a promise, amidst so many broken promises, he made to his infant daughter all those years ago.

Although there seems to be many reviews written about what this book lacks, I wished to add one pointing to what I found valuable, heart wrenching and even darkly humorous about Bennie and his impotent rage and frustration. This was ultimately a story of a middle aged man who has come to appreciate that the majority of his years are most likely behind him; and looking back, he sees that much of his life occurred and was seen through an alcohol induced haze. He spends part of the time admonishing himself for all of the ways he chose unwisely and part of the time, he seems to desperately want to blame his choices on some inherited madness that he traces back at least two generations in his family. In the end though, he realizes that it was HIS life.. and all of his screw-ups and missed chances fell on him. That acknowledgement led to a desperation to at least make good on one promise he made to his baby daughter all those years ago. You see, Bennie has come to a point where he admits that he doesn't really want to die..... he just doesn't see much point in living.

Although Bennie was not always a likable character, I found his story very compelling and oddly moving. Having reached middle age myself, I found that I could understand how he could have arrived at that particular point in his life. Although some of the story seemed repetitive in places, I couldn't sop listening and wondering if he would indeed reach his destination... and the redemption he sought.
Profile Image for Dan Butterfass.
49 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2009
I've always admired Jonathon Miles' personality-driven, lyrically-satisfying journalism - book reviews, food writing, outdoors essays, etc. - so of course I was excited to read his first novel.

Whether one loves or hates this protogonist, or loves or hates this book, (the nature of the beast of this book is that doesn't seem to leave much middle ground as far readerly relationships go), no one can deny Miles can flat-out write, he can write sentences, so well that his honor the craft of literature. For that reason alone the book gets 3 rather than 2 or less stars. He writes with a style that immediately sets this book apart from the monotone dullness of so much comtemprary fiction. So for me style and diction set this book apart from the dreck of the pack.

The form of the novel is a howl of a complaint-letter, a rant, and like most rants this one grows tiresome about half-way through. The novel's scenes are steeped in booze, self-pity, and nicotine fits; the descriptions of everyman's situation of being delayed, cancelled and stuck in an airport grow, like the book itself, wearisome. This is where the book sinks, if for no other reason than no matter how well-written, the material gets boring. The book swims whenever Miles takes us outside the airport, which is not often enough.

I don't think I've ever read a shorter novel (180 pages) that felt like it took forever to get to the end. But I stuck with it because the writing is so spirited, in tone and style. He risks a lot in this book: writing about male sentimentality; taking on the full-of-pitfalls task of making his protgonaist an alcoholic writer (poet); flirting with cliches associated with the "male-at-loose-ends" character; engrossing us in a side-story that often reads like a 75 year old knock-off of A Farewell to Arms. But then such risks might be worth admiring.

I'm hopeful that with his next fiction Miles will give us the fullness of story, characters and setting, that rise to the occasion of his prodigious talents. He's got the muscles to lift a lot more than he does here.

Hence, three stars and a conflicted review.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.4k followers
July 25, 2011
I'm sure nearly all of us has been there: you're scheduled to get somewhere and your flight is canceled, for reasons you can't quite understand. And it makes you mad. Maybe mad enough to flip out on someone. For Bennie Ford, who is scheduled to fly to his estranged daughter's wedding, the fact that his flight was canceled for no apparent reason has thrown him into such a state that he proceeds to write a letter of complaint to American Airlines. But what starts out as a letter of complaint about the canceled flight and his ruined travel plans becomes a lament on Bennie's entire life, not to mention aspects of society he finds reprehensible.

This is a very interesting book. Bennie is a fairly unsympathetic character, yet Jonathan Miles allows you to see enough of the Bennie's back story that you find yourself feeling for him as he wends his way through the misery that has befallen him. Much as the thought process, this book tends to veer bizarrely off course quite a bit, which made following along a bit more challenging, but it was definitely worth reading, as it made me realize nothing I'm facing was all that bad! (That being said, I'm not in any hurry to get back on an airplane.)
Profile Image for Kay.
1,009 reviews178 followers
May 4, 2011
Oh. My. God. I kept listening to this book, hoping it would get better. It didn't.

Admittedly, it started off promisingly enough, with a virulent rant address to American Airlines, one all frequent flyers can relate to. Initially, the novel was quite funny in an off-kilter Confederacy of Dunces way. Alas, soon it began to spiral downwards as Benjamin (Benny) Ford, stranded in O'Hare airport, reflects on his life. Suffice it to say his life is a train wreck, in large part a self-inflicted one.

There's nothing likeable or even mildly redeeming about Benny. If I met him, I'd find an excuse to get away from him as soon as possible: he's a bitter, self-pitying, nasty-tempered bore. To say he has "issues" ain't the half of it. Listening to his extended rancorous monologue felt like I was trapped in O'Hare with Benny, a traveling companion I just couldn't ditch.

Normally I give a book fifty pages to draw me in. If it hasn't by that point, well, there are plenty of promising books waiting in the wings, so I move on. I was listening to this, however, and somehow just couldn't get over the fact that such a well received novel (at least by the NY Times) was such a complete bummer.

I ended up listening to almost half of it before I snapped, stomping over to turn off my I-pod docking speakers and literally swearing at Benny as I did so. Yes, I had grown to hate him that much.
Profile Image for Molly.
220 reviews24 followers
November 8, 2010
Dear Mr. Miles:

Had I bought this book and not borrowed it from the library, I'd demand my effin' money back.

This book was not all that funny. But then, maybe it wasn't intended to be and my bad for assuming a humorous read.

I was incredibly annoyed by your whiny narrator. I felt no connection to him.

The bit where you tell a separate story within the main one via sharing the narrator's evolving translation of a foreign novel? No dice. It seemed to me like you really wanted to write THAT tale and couldn't pull it off - so you found a way to work it into this mess of a rambling book. Pick a story. Make it work. Then you can weave in parallel tales of woe.

The only part of your book that I really enjoyed was the Tolstoy quote:

"...there is only one time that is important: now. The present is the only time over which we have power. The most important person is the one beside you, for no man knows if he will ever have dealings with another. And the most important thing to do is to make the one beside you happy. For that purpose alone was man sent into this life."

Good stuff, that Leo. His inclusion earned you an extra star. I have power over my present so I shall now find a better book to dive into.
Profile Image for Kressel Housman.
974 reviews226 followers
December 31, 2022
The conceit of this book is so unique, I just had to read it. It's a letter of complaint written by a passenger stranded in O'Hare Airport on the way to his daughter's wedding. In the course of the novel, he reveals his whole life. He's a dysfunctional character, and so are all the other key figures. There are times I thought I'd give the book a mere 4 because the narrator is so cynical, but his black humor *is* funny, and the insights into human nature at the end won that fifth star.
Profile Image for Emily.
452 reviews22 followers
October 18, 2008
Well, I thought this book was about a traveler who got stuck in the airport and wrote a really long complaint letter to the airline ( actually was all that!) I thought the letter would be delightful to read and full of good zingers. NO! The dude writing it was just plain bitter. I've written stuff when I was mad or bitter and it is obvious. And it is also absolutely no fun to read.

I couldn't tell if the author himself is a bitter man (he doesn't look all that bitter on the book jacket) or if just the character is bitter. Either way, it was unpleasant.

The book is only 180 pages. The pages are small. And yet, it took me - the voracious reader - TWO weeks to read it. It was because I actually dreaded it. However, a bright spot in my life was a copy of In Style magazine that my boss gave me. I read it in between my readings of this book. It was a huge relief to look at something non-bitter. And as a huge fan of America's Next Top Model, I like to look at the ads and analyze them through Tyra Bank's eyes. I wanted to try out for that show (those of you who know what I look like are probably giggling), but I found out that I am 10 inches shy of the height requirement. Dang!

Profile Image for Cole.
425 reviews14 followers
May 1, 2009
I'm totally over reading about late-middle-age men who realize that they've spent their lives being puerile jackasses and try to make up for it in the ninth inning. Over it. Life is too short to finish books you do not enjoy reading and I am putting it down (even though there's a book club I'm supposed to read it for).
Profile Image for George.
802 reviews85 followers
January 7, 2014

"...there'd be so many halter tops bouncing on the dance floor it felt like the inside of a Lottery machine."

There is so much in this novel to dislike, to abhor even; I'm almost at a loss to explain why I enjoyed it so very much. But not quite. Perhaps it's because Dear American Airlines, by Jonathan Miles is so incredibly ripe with wonderful, worthy, witty, occasionally weighty, word-smithery. Is it a short memoir novel, or a lengthy, spirited, poem? Or just a long-winded, overwritten, letter of complaint—about life? Or something else, altogeter?

The narrator of the Blackstone Audio, Inc. audio book edition, Mark Bramhall, was thoroughly entertaining. His New Orleans accent aptly annoying, and his Polish so lyrical I could have listened to it for hours, never understanding a word.

Recommendation: Be prepared for a 'I wish he could be more upbeat, less squalid, yuk' factor; but do read and enjoy this novel for its pithy verbal gymnastics and a bit more...

"They had a carnal but melancholy air about them, as if sex was available but no one was going to enjoy it."

Blackstone Audio, Inc. MP3 audio book edition, 7:00 hours.
Profile Image for Kelly Herold.
34 reviews16 followers
July 29, 2008
The Good:

The novel's conceit--life story within a complaint letter to American Airlines. All the complaints were spot on and really depict the indignity of modern air travel perfectly.

The ending. No spoilers for me, but if this novel had ended any differently, I would have been writing a complaint letter.

The Bad:

The novel's protagonist is one of those 20th century characters I recently complained about on the blog ( Alcohol problem: check. Estranged from ex-wife and child: check. Failed writer: check. Eastern European roots: check. Enough already!
Profile Image for Sharon.
165 reviews12 followers
April 21, 2009
My friend Mia recommended this one--so glad she did. I loved the author's sardonic sense of humor. The story is beautifully told.
It's the kind of book that you can't bear to take back to the library 'cause you love it sooooo much...and when you decide you're going to copy down all the great passages, you end up copying most of the book :)
Profile Image for Geoff.
968 reviews96 followers
March 16, 2017
The conceit of this book (that it's entirely a long pissed off complaint letter by a man stuck in an airport after being screwed over by the airline) wears thin after a while, but I loved the complexity of the narrator's life, voice, and regrets.
Profile Image for Chris Dietzel.
Author 27 books405 followers
August 24, 2020
The book had a great premise, which got me to pick it up and start reading, but even from the first paragraph you can tell the premise is never going to be taken seriously. What remains feels forced and inauthentic.
Profile Image for Sue.
255 reviews34 followers
August 11, 2009
I once spent an extra 36 hours stranded between flights in Chicago, so the premise of this novel made me laugh corrosively right away. Whenever an airport stacks up with the human detritus of canceled flights, you have to figure that some of the humans are missing something important -- like Bennie Ford, the author of this rant to American Airlines. Bennie is trying to get to the wedding of his daughter, whom he was not seen since her infancy. To emphasize how little he knows her, he's just learned that she will marry a woman.

Eventually the airline company is absolved of its responsibility for all that has gone wrong in Bennie's life, but not before we learn all about his story through a bunch of tales, some very funny. I'm not too crazy about the literary conceit of a drunken poet who cannot manage his relationships. I've actually known a few of those sorts, and they aren't charming. But Bennie does not feel sorry for himself; he's only mad at himself. And I was really drawn in by the audio version of his "letter." I needed a beach read, or listen, for August, even if I am not at the beach. The whole time I could be happy I was not sleeping on the floor at O'Hare.

Once he has vented thoroughly about the airline (and yes, it was fun and cathartic), Bennie has plenty of time to reflect upon his life, including his badly matched parents, his unfortunate drift into parenthood, and his eventual sobriety. There are digressions into the work of Polish fiction he is translating (a poet has to pay the bills). The protagonist, a wounded Polish war veteran, adds some richness to Bennie's wanderings; everybody encounters some trauma. And Bennie is still pretty mad.

I think I'll avoid any spoilers.

Profile Image for Suzanne.
584 reviews30 followers
June 23, 2008
This book is not my usual pick--it's adult fiction with a 50-something male protagonist. But I am glad I read it. The writing is very sharp, and takes what could have been an annoyingly whiny missive and made it heartfelt and humorous introspective. Although Benny is not the most sympathetic character, I found myself rooting for him as his attempt to finally do the right thing is thwarted.
Profile Image for Jowayria Rahal.
56 reviews64 followers
March 23, 2017
Wooah. What a hike! Hard to believe it's Miles' debut novel.

Being stranded in an airport is no fun. You feel like an unloved package sitting in a dark Fed-ex warehouse waiting to be delivered, everything in you jumping up shouting '' deliver me! deliver me, now!'' and in so many ways, so goes Jonathan Miles' '' Dear American Airlines''.

The plot flows in something that resembles a tragicomey: Middle-aged aspiring yet failed poet now turned translator Bennie ( short for Benjamin) Ford is stranded along with other passengers in the purgatory of O'Hare airport on his way to his estranged daughter's ''wedding'' (courtesy of Bennie, confining the wedding within quotation marks now that he's learned his daughter is about to marry a woman). Enraged, livid even, Bennie decides to do the only thing he can do, second to chiefing a cigarette after the other, of course: write American Airlines a complaint letter where he, well not literally, spits out his colorful venom of a diatribe; a letter that will sooner than later turn into a lament of a life gone awry. Penned with marvelous with and a dry sinister sense of humor, the letter is Benni's cri-de-coeur, his ''rackety blurred clutter of {his} decrepitude''. Fortunately for Bennie, he's not alone. He got Walenty Molewski, the fictional protagonist from the novel '' The Free State of The Trieste'' Bennie's translating from Polish. And boy is Walenty's story sad! A wounded soldier in Italy trying to go back home to Poland but gets sidetracked with a love affair in Trieste. All throughout the letter, Bennie never fails to quote the passages he's translating, making subtle hints at the commonality of the frailty of human life.

Jonathan Miles' writes in inventive, raw and genuine bona fide emotion. Every passage is a flaming flashback, a flower neatly picked and laid there for the showcase. Surely, Bennie's fate is predictable similarly to the fate of 20th-century rogue Eastern European protagonists with their tainted repertoires of childhood memories, failed marriages, estranged kids, and the inevitable history of battles with alcoholism, resulting in a purgatory-like lifetime fraught with lament and self-pity. But Bennie is unsympathetic, his thoughts obstreperous to the point of obnoxiousness, his words unruly, just like Bukowski's - who Bennie calls '' Buk'' for short, as though the two date back to decades ago when they shared the confines of a college dorm. But Bennie is first and foremost a poet, with his heart on his sleeves and sciatic nerve throbbing, never misses a chance to fledge his poetic knowledge out; starting with direct quotes from Berryman and Yeats to parodies of Lacanian theory to adopting the '' Buk'' for Bukowski, sweating a whole lot to prove his literary genius, if you ask me.

But it is this very unruly, disorderly nature that I found rather earthly within Bennie's somewhat haughtish narrative. The cracking of voice in the middle of a heated argument, the sifting and sorting through coveted memory routes that, just like fresh wounds, are better covered than exposed. Miles crafts an enjoyable margarita blend of a witty story, interweaving poetry with psychology and philosophy. In a passage, Bennie ponders how'' truth is often locked up in the attic of the subconscious'', that '' life went on too long'' that as Berryman wrote'' Man, I been thirsty''.

Deserves a 4 stars rating for the beautiful marrying of form, style, and content, and there is really much more to it than this review.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,320 reviews43 followers
January 26, 2019
I thought Dear American Airlines was terrific. Witty and weird and spiky and... just admirable from a writing standpoint.

After this and Anatomy of a Miracle, Miles is definitely a new favorite. To me, his work has echoes of the 70's counterculture heavy hitters, but Miles is warmer, less jaded.

Very recommended.
Profile Image for Gregory Baird.
196 reviews760 followers
December 29, 2014
“Dear American Airlines,
My name is Benjamin R. Ford and I am writing to request a refund in the amount of $392.68. But then, no, scratch that: Request is too mincy & polite … I am rather demanding a refund in the amount of $392.68. Demanding demanding demanding.”

So begins Jonathan Miles’ offbeat novel, Dear American Airlines, which is either a slight novel at 180 pages or an epic, profane rant of a letter depending on how you look at it. The aforementioned Bennie Ford has gotten stranded overnight at O’Hare airport on the way to his daughter’s wedding in California, and is now in danger of missing the ceremony completely unless he can catch a flight out of there by 8:00 AM. Bad enough, but it becomes immediately apparent that there was a lot more at stake for Bennie by getting to the wedding than it would seem at first glance. This was to be the first time he saw his estranged daughter, Stella, since her toddler years – his wedding invitation the first communication between them since Bennie’s ex-wife took her away from him all those years ago. And it was supposed to go well; Stella was even open to the possibility of letting him walk her down the aisle – provided that they meet the day before the wedding and talk things over first. Now that opportunity is gone forever since Bennie is spending the night before the wedding moving between a series of uncomfortable chairs in Chicago, hopeless miles from the rehearsal dinner. This was to be more than Stella’s wedding for Bennie: this was supposed to be his big shot at atonement.

Understandably, he is outraged. Understandably, he needs to vent his enormous frustration. So he begins composing a venomous letter to American Airlines with the above stated intention of claiming a refund for the flight. But by page four he has begun his first digression and started telling his life story instead, leaving the narrative to go back and forth between Bennie’s past and his present situation.

Ultimately, It isn’t the refund that matters to Bennie, it’s the chance to be heard. To be understood. To unburden himself of the details of his misbegotten life – even if, as he expects, the peon at American Airlines who receives his letter never even reads the entire thing. Bennie’s story is predictable, yes. His mother was a bi-polar artist prone to suicide attempts and runaways – with young Bennie in tow. He was once a promising poet but currently makes a living translating other writer’s work into English. He threw everything he ever had (marriage, career, fatherhood, etc.) away thanks to alcoholism and has only been sober five years. He has turned his life into a ravaged, scarred mess and never did know how to go about fixing things. Until this opportunity presented itself, that is.

Bennie’s past may be predictable, but Miles’ fresh perspective and unique approach make this novel new(ish) enough to be worth your while. The stumbling points are the passages Bennie throws in from the book he is currently translating, which feel apropos of nothing and distract from the real attraction that is Bennie’s plight. Ultimately, these parts feel like padding more than anything else and don’t really add to the novel’s substance, which is a shame. Because aside from that this novel skews toward pretty darned clever.
Profile Image for David.
174 reviews21 followers
December 24, 2014
I loved nearly everything about this book. Started reading while waiting to board an American Airlines flight of my own, realized how much my own frustrations about *everything* related to flying are really just about something else entirely.

Miles starts by framing the entire novel through the eyes of an angry American Airlines customer, writing ostensibly to request a refund for a cancelled flight. And then somehow, when the book starts to get really interesting 25 pages in or so, this crazed and sad man starts recanting his personal history, how his parents met in New Orleans in the 1950s, a holocaust survivor and a painter, his own disturbed youth and the mercurial romance he had as a young man, producing a child but losing his family as a result of his alcoholism. Flash forward to the modern day and our protagonist is on his way across country to see his estranged daughter married, to meet her as an adult for the first time... and his flight is cancelled.

Want Not was excellent and so was Dear American Airlines and I'm fairly well convinced that Miles is going to write something insanely great someday. I look forward to his future work very much.

p.s. I can't stand the ridiculous "he's too clever for his own good" criticism of Miles' writing. Cleverness and humor and thoughtful use of metaphor and an intelligent and fresh conceptual framework ... I mean, who wants those things, right?
Profile Image for liz.
276 reviews28 followers
February 28, 2009
Um... Sad. Just, sad. I had read good things about this short novel and was excited to read it, but goddamn is it sad. Aging former alcoholic takes stock of his ruined life while he's derailed on his way to his estranged daughter's wedding. Normally I'm a sucker for anything involving translation or translators, but jeez. I do have a lot of pages dog-eared, which I suppose means it's well-written.

Shortly before I left New Orleans, I was fooling around with an equally alky divorcée named Sandra ("Sahn-dra"). She claimed to have been a model once but that seemed dubious from a visual point of view.

Because of its status as a port city ("a crucial port city," the nuns said), New Orleans would be obliterated in the first wave of attacks; this, we were told, was the price we had to pay for living in such an important town. Also it was rumored that the Russians hated Mardi Gras and/or for that matter all parades of a festive nature.

I take an oversized amount of pride in the fact that I've never worn a wristwatch since my thirteenth birthday, when my father gave me a Timex and I smashed it with a nine-iron to see how much licking would stop its ticking (not much, as it turned out).
Profile Image for Bookmarks Magazine.
2,042 reviews731 followers
February 5, 2009

Every critic was at first skeptical of this epistolary "gimmick novel" about a self-pitying, if lovable, loser, but by the end, all agreed that "the concept works beautifully" (Los Angeles Times). Miles's effort produced an intelligent, playful, and, above all, moving story full of humor and well-written digressions. Bennie is a remarkably flawed but sympathetic man, and though his hilarious asides may not always advance the storyline, they certainly contribute to the fun. The only point of contention among the critics was the Polish novel-within-a-novel, praised by the New York Times but panned by the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times as ineffective and unnecessary. Short enough to read during a lengthy layover, this affecting and laugh-out-loud-funny tirade should stay with readers long after they've reached their final destinations.

This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

Profile Image for Carrie.
58 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2013
I listened to this book on CD. It never really grabbed me. It's the story of a man who is delayed en route from NYC to LA to attend his estranged daughter's wedding. What starts as a complaint letter to American Airlines regarding the delay turns into a lengthy autobiography through which we discover the details surrounding his failed relationship with his daughter's mother, his questionable upbringing by a schizophrenic mother, his alcoholism, and his absence from his daughter's upbringing.

The narrator is a poet, and that is crammed down the reader's throat with unnecessarily effusive language throughout the entire book. It's written using metaphor after flowery metaphor, and gets nauseating after a while. Not to mention the fact that this guy is wholly unlikeable. Ultimately, I felt a little sorry for him, but it was way too little, way too late. Would not recommend this book. The way it got two stars was by making me laugh out loud in a few parts.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 766 reviews