Author Patrick Smith comments on the review
Read the author's
comments and explanations about his book and the context in
which it was written below.
Who better than to comment on
the book than the author himself.
After reading the review,
author Patrick Smith graciously agreed to send in some comments
to better explain the book and its underlying purpose.
To some extent, I think
you've missed the point of the book.
It's not completely your
fault, and allow me to explain:
I titled the original
manuscript "HALF THE FUN," (as in "getting there is...") and it
contained a varied mix of straightforward Q&A, personal stories,
essays, anecdotes -- it even had poems. I did not compile the
book merely to be a self-helpy,
everything-you-need-to-know-about-whatever sort of thing. It
was supposed to be something more serious. The name and
packaging were determined by the publisher (which was at least
kind enough to let me create most of the back cover).
After the manuscript had
been typeset and copyedited, I was suddenly asked to perform a
massive, last second revision that required removal of almost a
third of the contents, and serious rearranging of the rest. I
was not given much time to perform this -- a week, if I remember
right. This is when some of the errors managed to slip in,
though most -- if not the matter of Qantas or the length of the
nautical mile -- were corrected in later printings.
This revision, I was told,
was to better engineer the book for sales at airports and
newstands. At the time, after some initial disappointment, that
seemed a very sensible idea. Alas, in the end, *very few*
airport stores have actually agree to sell ASK THE PILOT.
Sadly, the book was overhauled only to end up hidden from its
target audience. The city stores, meanwhile, have buried it in
their seldom-visted "Transportation" sections. It was intended,
from my point of view, to be a "Travel" book.
Even it its present state,
the book is supposed to be quirky, and unusual. I didn't want
to *sound like a pilot,* and I try very hard to about "flying"
in a way that is markedly different from past attempts. That's
one of the reasons ASK THE PILOT intentionally has no diagrams
or illustrations. I wanted to use language instead of relying
You state, in talking about
one of the book's Q&A segments: "But wouldn't you like to know
how much extra efficiency winglets add? Is it 1% or 10% or ?%.
He doesn't tell us."
Not by accident. That's
exactly the line that I never like to cross, because then it
becomes writing for airplane aficionados and gearheads versus
writing that gets the average person to ponder the air travel
experience. My audience is not people with a predisposed
interest in flight. On the contrary. Meanwhile, there's plenty
of tech analysis already out there. You have Popular Mechanics
for that. I don't want the reader to *care* whether it's one
percent or ten percent. From my perspective, it's simply not
important beyond letting the reader know that it saves a little
bit of fuel.
I feel that the success of
the book, and of the columns too, stems from their tendency to
be interesting and curious in ways that people *do not expect.*
The plan is to make air travel compelling by going against the
grain -- be it in my unorthodox opinions about security,
or waxing sentimental about the paint scheme of Air India. The
things I hope to highlight are the more curious and nuanced
aspects of flight. The question you point out about the
allegories and images, for example, is possibly my favorite part
of the entire book. *That's* the page I want people to turn to
and think about.
And all of this helps
explain why the columns on Salon.com have thrived for so long --
and the book is compiled directly from the earlier ones. Salon
is mostly a politics and arts magazine. Of the letters I get,
the most flattering are from people who rarely fly and who
couldn't care less about flying, but who tell me: "I didn't
think I'd care about your articles, only to be drawn in."
to Ask the Pilot review page here]
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16 Dec 2005, last update
21 Jul 2020
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