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Otto Lilienthal

About ten years ago, when I was still living in San Francisco, I had the idea to make a hypertext fiction, i.e., a story that would branch in many different directions. I tried various ways of doing this, which I won’t bore you with; the point of the story is that after about three years of struggling with this idea (during which time I moved to New York, and wrote The Facts of Winter), I more or less gave up on it. In the fall of 2003, I wrote a novel about a young man who’s summoned back to his family home in Thebes, NY, a sleepy town in the Catskills, in order to clean the house of five generations of junk. His grandfather has just died and no one else wants the job. So he goes. This was the seed of Luminous Airplanes, a book which would surely have been easier to finish if I hadn’t been haunted by the idea that the novel could be something more, that it could extend its branches indefinitely in the vast space of the Internet.

After many false starts and dead ends, Luminous Airplanes became both a book and a hypertext. The book tells the story of our young man, now a computer programmer, and the house of relics and trash which he sorts through in the fall of 2000. The hypertext, or “immersive text,” as we’re calling it (hypertext got a bad name back in the 90s) both complements the novel and continues it into the present. Here’s a short film which Hal Hartley made about the project:

The immersive text is online at www.luminousairplanes.com. Take a look. Or, if you’re the kind of person who likes to read the reviews first, see what the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Economist, Time Out New York, Time Out Chicago, and the New York Observer have to say.

© 2012 Paul Poissel
  • “Like some kind of freakishly gifted Olympic ice skater, Paul La Farge moves gracefully through decades of time, tracing the through lines from childhood games to the dramas and disintegrating dreams of adulthood. This perfect figure eight of a book links San Francisco’s tech boom to one nerdy kid’s quest to seduce a girl with a computer game to the cul-de-sacs of early aeronautics history to sleepy 1980s upstate New York to the Millerites’ cosmic goof. Luminous Airplanes is a coming-of-age story like none other I’ve ever read; it is brilliant, poignant, startling, hilarious, and a really, really fun read. I loved it.”
    —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

  • “This is one of the best works of fiction to come my way in a long time. Luminous Airplanes is a quiet triumph of a book.”
    —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

  • “An open-ended, postmodern fable that somehow delivers the satisfaction of the novelistic conventions it subverts. [...] Where so much experimental fiction seems pessimistic or even cynical about its possibilities, this novel sustains a spirit of innocence and wonder.”
    Kirkus (starred review)

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