Flashback Friday is a meme hosted by Bookshelf fantasies focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves.
I was fourteen when I read this book for the first time…it is one of the first memoirs that I ever read and it pretty much made me fall in love with the genre. This is one of Richard Bach’s earliest books and unlike some of his later work which strayed into pop psychology, this is a book about flying and it does not pretend to be anything else. Sure there are questions about life and meaning that are asked and answered along the way, but it is no more than the sort of introspection that all of us engage in from time to time.
This book was written in 1964 and it is a record of a journey across America, all the way from the east to the west in an open cockpit biplane, the Detroit-Parks built in 1929. Bach traded in a modern closed cockpit, full instrument Fairchild for a old biplane that did not even have a radio. He did it because he wanted to experience flight the way the earliest pilots had experienced it, with the sun on his face, the wind blowing around him and whistling through the wings of the plane…
So he bought the biplane in Lumberton, South Carolina and flew it all the way across America to Los Angeles. This book is a record of that experience, an experience of a new (old) way of flying and a new way of living. There are plenty of anecdotes along the way about his experiences on other flights in other planes, his time in the air force, the friends he made and the things he learnt that make for interesting reading.
There are plenty of other (better) writers who have written about aeroplanes and flying, but Richard Bach brings a certain immediacy to his narrative that is refreshing. It is hard not to get caught up in the story and feel as if you are up there in the plane with him, seeing and feeling everything he describes.
As Ray Bradbury says in the introduction, this is “a book not about flying, but soaring, a feat not of machines but imagination.”