Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge | Tags: books, class, flying, Martin Amis, The Information
What people read on flights, from Amis’ The Information:
In Coach: pluralistic, liberal, humane, war, fiction, Russian lit, classical lit, philosophy.
In Business World: outright junk, thrillers, chillers, tinglers, escape.
In First Class: nothing, perfume catalogue.
Does the body rot from the head down? What if it were reversed and first class read all that good stuff? If we took away the perfume catalogues, passed forward the lit. Would there be benevolence and flourishing?
I’d rather be in coach, not for the leg room –. Here is Amis:
The stewardess escorted him down the length of Economy, and then another stewardess escorted him through Business World; he ducked under a curtain, and then another stewardess led him into First. As hemade this journey, this journey within a journey, getting nearer to America, Richard looked to see what everyone was reading, and found that his progress through the plane described a diagonal of shocking decline. In Coach the laptop literature was pluralistic, liberal, and humane: Daniel Deronda, trigonometry, Lebanon, World War I, Homer, Diderot, Anna Karenina. As for Business World, it wasn’t that the businessmen and businesswomen were immersing themselves in incorrigibly minor or incautiously canonized figures like Thornton Wilder or Dostoevsky, or with lightweight literary middlemen like A. L. Rowse or Lord David Cecil, or yet with teacup-storm philosophers, exploded revisionist historians, stubbornly Steady State cosmologists or pallid poets over whom the finger of sentimentality continued to waver. They were reading trex: outright junk. Fat financial thrillers, chunky chillers and tublike tinglers: escape from the pressures facing the contemporary entrepreneur. And then he pitched up in the intellectual slum of First Class, among all its drugged tycoons, and the few books lying unregarded on softly swelling stomachs were jacketed with hunting scenes or ripe young couples in mid swirl or swoon. They all lay there flattened out in the digestive torpor of midafternoon, and nobody was reading anything-except for a lone seeker who gazed, with a frown of mature skepticism, at a perfume catalogue. Jesus, what happened on the Concorde? Scouring the troposphere at the limit of life, and given a glimpse of the other side-a glimpse of what the rest of the universe almost exclusively consisted of (unpunctuated vacuum)-the Mach 2 morons would be sitting there, and staring into space. The space within. Not the space without. In the very nib of the airplane sat Gwyn Barry, who was reading his schedule.
Martin Amis, The Information