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In-Flight Entertainment [Paperback]

Helen Simpson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2011

Poignant, funny and perceptive, Helen Simpson's fifth collection of short stories deals with the full stretch, from birth to death and everything in between. A young woman's diary records a blackly farcical escape attempt involving flamenco, murder and wild picnics; two students fall in love then almost talk themselves out of it in an argument about the end of the world; a heartfelt anti-cancer spell is cast in the desire to protect a friend.

Moving effortlessly between tragedy and comedy, from the politics of wanderlust to domestic extremism, this is an intoxicating collection from a master of the genre.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099546124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099546122
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"It's all packed with Simpson's deadpan wit - she is one of the most sharply funny writers in England today" (Times Literary Supplement)

"When it comes to contemporary maestros of the short-story form, Helen Simpson is up there with Alice Munro... If they had any sense the 10:10 carbon-reduction campaign would distribute this book for free, such is its power" (Lucy Atkins The Sunday Times)

"The best short story writer now working in English" (Financial Times)

"In-Flight Entertainment is quite delectable, confirming her as the queen of the comic short story" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Helen Simpson can weave more thought and feeling into a thousand words than some achieve in as many pages" (Intelligent Life)

Book Description

'A masterful contemporary exponent of the genre. Simpson now deserves to be compared with Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro' - Observer

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She is so good! 10 Jun 2011
This a return to form for Helen Simpson - not that any of her books of short stories are anything short of wonderful - but this spoke to me the way "Hey Yeh Right, Get a Life" did, when I had small children. Pefect short story writing, such an fantastic art form in her hands. Not a word overused, each sentence so thought provoking. Incredible to feel so immersed in the characters lives within a few phrases. I'll remember these little stories for a long time. PS Night Thoughts, published in Granta 115 makes it worth the purchase price alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simpson is ready for take-off. 29 May 2012
By Jimbo
In-flight entertainment is a collection of short stories by Helen Simpson, regularly held up as one of the best British writer of short stories at present, and it is not hard to see why. This slim volume contains fifteen stories, loosely based around the theme of climate change. So, the title story sees an irritated passenger on a plane insisting to a scientist that flying does not have an impact upon the environment, Ahead of the Pack sees a pitch for funding for carbon footprint reduction, and Diary of an Interesting Year witnesses the aftermath of the climate change tipping point in 2040. Whilst inherently political, she pulls these stories off in a thought-provoking way and without being at all hectoring.

But there are also engaging stories about more mundane matters - whether it is considering how best to dispose of a trapped squirrel, the most efficient way to dump a girlfriend or coping with a new hearing aid. There is a rich vein of wry humour running through these stories which are beautifully crafted. She managed to provide just enough detail to properly sketch out her characters, and there is not a wasted word amongst these stories

This the first book by Simpson that I have read, and I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of her output.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud intelligent short stories 20 May 2011
This collection is the best I've read in years, Simpson is insightful, hilarious and thought-provoking. A MUST-BUY, there is something for everyone in these stories.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deftness, skill and proselytising 6 Sep 2013
By Peter D
I have read a couple of Helen Simpson short story collections previously, and enjoyed and admired their precision, gentle humour and sharp observation. 'In-Flight Entertainment' has these qualities too, but they are all a bit supplanted by a more urgent proselytising on the subject of climate change, global degradation and the end of humanity. This is the overt theme of several of the stories. Their effect was to make me nervous, while at the same time admiring Simpson's deftness and skill in the short story form.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As Read on BBC Radio 4 4 Jun 2011
By David R. Anderson - Published on
The title of Helen Simpson's most recent collection of short stories carries a double meaning: the obvious one, the onboard menu of time-passers served up by long haul air carriers and, less obviously, it may well refer to the fact that we are in flight from dealing with global warming and the apocalypse it portends.

End of the world fiction is an acquired taste; writing it well enough to entertain while it scares the pants off the reader is no mean feat. Give Simpson, currently one of the very best short story writers writing in English, credit for trying. Several of the English reviewers of "In-Flight Entertainment" assert that she succeeded. E.g., Teddie Jamieson, for "Herald Scotland" said "Less furious polemic then, more peerless fiction."

Simpson's polemic voice is heard on the title story (jet travel impact on the environment) and in "Squirrel" (gardening practices), "Ahead of the Pack," (carbon footprint reduction), "Scan" (the problems caused by the air we breath and the water we drink), "The Tipping Point" (a lover's "apocalyptic zeitgeist" breaks up a romance), "Geography Boy" (more of the same), and "Diary of an Interesting Year" (2040, when we actually reach the end of the world).

Do the stories work as polemics? Yes. They make the reader acutely aware that we are at peril because of our wanton disregard for the health of the earth and by our "what can I do about it"? attitudes. But do these stories work as stories? No, not quite. For all the good writing, they tend to be tedious, repetitive, and they put us on the defensive.

So what's to like? A good deal actually. There are eight other stories. These are much closer to the high standard Simpson set and met in her earlier collections. ("Getting a Life," Knopf, 2001, is a great place to start if you are new to Simpson.) "The Festival of the Immortals" in the new book is a witty send up of the battlefield re-enactment lads set in the context of a weekend with actors playing many of England's greatest writers. Unfortunately for the ticket holders, the Daniel Defoe reading had to be cancelled. "Charm for a Friend with a Lump" makes the best of a bad thing happening to a good person. "In the Driver's Seat" makes all too clear what a woman whose choices have come down to one or none will put up with to avoid living alone.

"In-Flight Entertainment" may not be Simpson on her best day. But Simpson on a good day is better than most of today's short story writers at their peak.

End note. A sticker on the cover of the paperback edition of the book states "As Read on BBC Radio 4." An entry on the WWW states that the stories were "commissioned" for that purpose. That may account for the short length of some of the stories. Moreover, listening to an author read her stories often adds luster not to be found on the printed page. For a great example, hunt up the tape recording of Vladimir Nabokov reading from "Lolita." FYI, AmazonBritain can furnish the paperback.
3.0 out of 5 stars yawn 15 Nov 2012
By S. Gentis - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The writing is very good. The characters are initially interesting. The stories are not about anything-and I don't mean "not about anything" in an interesting fashion like Nabakov-just everyday not about anything. Naval gazing.

The author has chosen to deliver some odd diatribe on global warming in the guise of a book of short fiction which is unfortunate to say the least.

She is a good writer and if she actually wrote a book about global warming I'm sure it would be first rate. By the same token if she actually wrote a book of short fiction I'm sure it would also be good.

She chose to try desperately to do both at the same time. How tiresome.

There is a very cheap nearly new copy at the local Goodwill!
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