Just when you thought flying couldn’t get any more unpleasant comes this unwelcome bit of information:
But a reading? What fresh hell is this? I don't know about you, but I can think of only a few things I'd less rather do than sit in my seat at 35,000 feet listening to an author read aloud.
Don’t get me wrong: A good reading is a rare and wondrous thing. Over the years, I’ve seen my share: Terry Southern,
An airplane, though, is not the place for collective bonding — except, perhaps, over the shared desire to remain, safely, in the air. When I'm on a plane, all I want is to be left alone, to sit quietly, self-contained, to lose myself in a book or in my own thoughts, to get it over with. I feel trapped enough already, hurtling through the sky in a metal tube at 600 miles per hour. Add a reading to the mix, and I begin to have an existential crisis on my hands.
That would probably be the case even were the reading a strong one, but the sad reality is that readings almost always leave something to be desired. This is their dirty little not-so-secret: that most writers are not performers, as much as they might wish they were.
There are few things I enjoy less than watching an author mumble through a set of pages, or hearing the stentorian rhythms of what a friend calls "poet voice." At least in a bookstore or a bar, I can always find a way to distract myself. But what do I do if I'm on a plane?
To be fair, I don't know if Greitens is a vivid reader or not; I wasn't on the flight. For me, however, that's only one of the issues at play. More to the point is the notion that any audience must be a captive audience, that everything is now a promotional opportunity. What happened to personal space, to minding one's own business, to our ability — no, our right — to choose?
There are plenty of ways for us to listen to an author, should we want to … but please, Southwest: not on a plane.