Walter Kirn’s novel Up in the Air
came out in 2001, just months before the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. As a result, sales of the novel, which depicted an airplane engulfed in flames on its cover, plummeted. The book got a second life, however, when Juno
director Jason Reitman decided to adapt it into a movie starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, the novel’s central character. A postmodern nomad who doesn’t really have a home because he works as a corporate axeman, Bingham flies around the country to fire people and the film plots his trials and tribulations as he traipses from airport to to hotel and office and back again. A native of Akron, Kirn recently phoned in to discuss the novel and its transformation into an Academy Award-nominated film.
You were raised in Minnesota, but I was told you were born in Akron. Is that true?
I was born in Akron, and my mother grew up in Shaker Heights and a lot of my family on both sides still lives in Akron, Cleveland and Columbus. Almost all my extended family lives there. I was just there just a little while, about a year. My dad was an engineering grad student at Ohio State and my mom was at nursing school there and that’s where they met. Then we moved from place to place and ended up in Minnesota. I’ve gone back regularly throughout my life to see cousins, uncles and grandparents.