Luminous Airplanes

Is it necessary to have restrictions in order to write something? I.e., is it necessary to establish rules whereby some things are allowed in your story, and other things are verboten? Most fictions are, like Alex, fussy eaters: they demand that you begin at the beginning and move causally to the end. (That’s “plot.”) Human actions should mostly be explicable. (That’s “character.”) Things can only be in one place at one time; they ought to persist in space unless there is a reason why they shouldn’t do so. (That’s “setting.”) Then there are the rules writ in divers manuals of the writer’s craft: drop protagonist and antagonist into the same pot of water; let them struggle until one tears the claws off the other (that’s the “climax”), then heat the pot to the point where mirages of another world appear (“epiphany”); void the pot and serve, or else let it go on boiling (“closure,” or its lack). And do it efficiently, please, efficiently! Your guests are waiting.
—  Luminous Airplanes by Paul LaFarge

Our very own Mr. Hanson-Finger sent me to this very cool companion website for the new Paul La Farge book, Luminous Airplanes. La Farge says this new work of his falls under the genre of “hyperromance” a term that harkens back to the “hypertext” novels of the late 80’s and 90’s. He claims the reason they failed was because the writers of hypertext novels never got beyond the gimmick; I think it may have more to do with the differences in technology between now and then, and how much more we rely on the internet as a whole. But I digress.

The website for the book is really great. It is beautiful, well designed and easy to navigate. On top of which, Gary Shteyngart has said some very complimentary things: “He (Le Farge) has created as thoroughly imagined a world as you would expect from Chekhov or Flaubert…” Damn. Either way, it will be interesting to see if any other authors try their hand at the “hyperromance”. 

There is a priest in the Vatican whose job it is to invent Latin words for modern phenomena: telephones and Vaseline, Kleenex and eighteen-wheel trucks and the television news. If only you could have asked that priest what the word was for railway stations you might have been able to name your fear correctly, which might have made the fear go away, because wasn’t that the nature of fear, to be nameless, to be dispelled by names, in which case was the word “agoraphobia” deliberately inexact, was it, in other words, a secret means by which the disease perpetuated itself?
—  Luminous Airplanes
Momus was the Greek god of mockery and criticism, who was exiled from Mount Olympus for calling Zeus violent and lustful (he was right, though). He also mocked Hephaestus, the smith of the gods, for having made mankind without doors in their chests, through which their souls could be seen. And in this too he was right. If only we could see into one another’s hearts through some little openable door, locked, maybe, but unlockable, if only we could know what was going on in there, think of all the hurt we might not do. But then on the other hand maybe it would make no difference, or maybe it would even be worse. Maybe we’d hurt each other for the pleasure of watching those little fires flicker and dim and eventually go out.
Or maybe—this is what I’m thinking, as I remember how my Bleak story continues—the use of those doors would be, not to see into each other’s hearts, but to know our own.
—  Luminous Airplanes