The Man Who Ate the 747 [NOOK Book]

Overview

This is the story of the greatest love, ever....

J. J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records, is an ordinary man searching for the extraordinary. J.J. has clocked the world?s longest continuous kiss. He has verified the lengthiest single unbroken apple peel. He has tasted the world?s largest menu item. But J.J. has never witnessed great love.

That is, until ...
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The Man Who Ate the 747

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Overview

This is the story of the greatest love, ever....

J. J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records, is an ordinary man searching for the extraordinary. J.J. has clocked the world’s longest continuous kiss. He has verified the lengthiest single unbroken apple peel. He has tasted the world’s largest menu item. But J.J. has never witnessed great love.

That is, until he comes to a tiny town in the American heartland. Here J.J. discovers a world record attempt like no other. Piece by piece, a farmer is eating a Boeing 747 to prove his love for a woman. But when J.J. unexpectedly falls in love with the same woman, a woman as outwardly cynical as he is, J.J. learns why records are made to be broken...and why the greatest wonders in life can never be measured.

From the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Some send candy and flowers. Some write love letters and ballads. And some will eat a Boeing 747 to prove their love for a woman, as in this charming debut. Ben Sherwood, a senior producer of NBC Nightly News, proves he can make news of his own in a wildly inventive audiobook that may just as likely warm your heart as give you heartburn, The Man Who Ate the 747.

"This is the story of the greatest love, ever," begins our hero, J. J. Smith -- an unremarkable man and an unforgettable narrator, the Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records. He has traveled the world verifying and recording some of the most bizarre superlatives imaginable, feats of the body and freaks of nature through which people hope to be immortalized by being the fastest, the most, the greatest. Quoting obsessively from The Book of Records (he has witnessed attempts to break the record for the world's longest kiss -- 30 hours and 45 minutes), J. J. proclaims all matters of the heart to be the product of dopamine, pheromones, and our innate response to symmetrical features. But an anonymous letter from America's heartland leads him to a place where he must throw out the book of everything he thought he knew about love.

In a world where reality TV floods the media with high-speed car chases and animal attacks, the world's fastest snail can hardly compete, and J. J. must find a real humdinger of a record breaker quickly, or he'll fast become the world's most unemployed Keeper of the Records. Salvation appears in Superior, Nebraska, where he finds a superlative unlike any he's witnessed before -- a quiet, heartsick farmer, Wally Chubb, is eating an entire Boeing 747 airplane to show his lifelong unspoken love for Willa Wyatt, who writes, edits, and prints the town's newspaper. After J. J. convinces Wally that the recognition of a world record will help him win the heart of Willa, the world turns its attention to this humble man as he, aided by a metal-grinding contraption created by his best friend, Nate, consumes a daily diet supplemented with pureed plane parts. As Wally eats his way to unlikely fame, J. J. finds himself completely enamored of Willa -- but when the Book of Records disqualifies the attempt under its rules against "gluttony," the Keeper of Records soon finds there is no category for the sharpest turn his life has taken thus far.

In The Man Who Ate the 747, Ben Sherwood makes a debut that is second to none, showing us that the terrain of the heart -- while it cannot be quantified in conventional superlatives -- still holds immeasurable wonders. (Elise Vogel)

Elise Vogel is a freelance writer living in New York City.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
HIntroduced as "the story of the greatest love, ever," by its world-record verifier of a hero, this winsome, perceptive and often hilarious comedy is not sparing in its deployment of superlatives. J.J. Smith, keeper of the records for the Guinness-clone Book of Records, has witnessed and verified the world's longest apple peel, the longest flight of a champagne cork, the longest fingernails, the longest hiccup attack. But as record book sales dwindle in the face of TV's Scariest Police Chases and When Animals Attack, J.J. is ordered to come up with a news-making world record--or else. Just in time, the dapper, fact-loving New Yorker receives an anonymous tip from Superior, Neb., and sets out for that lonely, windswept town. There, a lumbering introvert farmer, Wally Chubb, is on a mission to prove his love for Superior's sassy newspaper editor, Willa Wyatt. His plan: to consume an entire Boeing 747, ground into grit. The whole town knows of Wally's eccentric commitment, but Willa, a blue jeans-clad blonde who longs for a more "worldly" love, does not have the heart to tell him to stop. Between bites of peanut butter/wing torsion box sandwiches and sips of vanilla fan-blade assembly milkshakes, Wally reluctantly agrees to allow J.J. to record his progress for the Book. Willa rails against the media circus J.J. brings to Superior, but she can't deny her attraction to the new man, and J.J. finds himself falling in love with Willa, too. Conflicts arise when Wally nears the indestructible, and possibly unconsumable black box; when the Book's editors enforce the "no gluttony records" rule; and when J.J. painfully realizes that his love for Willa threatens not only his job but Wally's heart as well. In telling his unlikely story, J.J. begs us to "believe it just a little." There's no question readers will join him in the faith. First-time novelist Sherwood, an NBC executive, has produced a heartwarming, gently humorous tale that could set records of its own. Major ad/promo; author tour; film rights sold to Bel Air Entertainment/Warner Bros. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
John Smith is a Keeper of Records for the world-famous Book of Records. For the past 14 years, he has traveled the globe to verify records in innumerable categories, making his work the family that he does not have. When he gets news of a man in Superior, NE, who is eating a 747, he drives there to check it out. Although gluttony records have been banned by the Committee of The Book, Smith finds that the plane is being eaten for love and asks for special dispensation from the Committee. Wally Chubb's eating of the 747 is actually his latest and greatest attempt to get Willa Wyatt to fall in love with him--an attempt he started when he was ten. When Smith meets Willa, he forgets everything he thought he knew about love and soon realizes that in this category everyone sets his or her own record. Sherwood, senior producer for the NBC Nightly News, has written numerous articles as an investigative journalist. This novel confirms his ability to craft characters that live and breathe. This well-written debut is romantic, suspenseful, ridiculous, and, finally, satisfying. Recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]--Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Sherwood's magical, quirky, and gorgeously written novel takes magical realism out of exotic locales and centers it right in America's heartland...nothing short of mesmerizing.
Entertainment Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
A clever, quirky, comic first novel about love and obsession, as seen through the eyes of a man who makes his living verifying world records. J.J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records, has spent most of his life traveling the world in search of those who are desperate enough for immortality to kiss nonstop for 30 hours and 45 minutes, swallow 13 raw eggs in a second, or make a continuous crawl of 31.5 miles. But lately things have gone sour for J.J., who has just been dumped by his girlfriend because he doesn't really know what love is, foolishly believing that it has everything to do with symmetrical faces, pheromones, and the sound of someone's voice. Also, J.J. is in danger of being put out to pasture because he's hit a particularly dry patch as far as records are concerned: his task now is to fine one worthy of notation in the book—and quickly. Going through his mail one day, he comes across a note claiming that in the tiny town of Superior, Nebraska, someone is "eating a 747, the airplane with a hump on top. Every day he eats some, no matter how bad it tastes. I sware.` When J.J. arrives in the heartland, he indeed finds Wally Chubb grinding up the 747 bit by bit and, yes, he's actually eating it. And the reason he's eating it is to demonstrate his undying, everlasting love for Willa Wyatt, who writes and edits the local newspaper. Willa is, in fact, a worthy inspiration for Wally's strange diet, so much so that J.J. also falls for her, while at the same time urging Wally to go for the record book so that his town may reap the economic benefits of his notoriety. Wonderfully wacky, wise, charming, and romantic satire, filled with lovablyeccentriccharacters who know the secret of true love.
From the Publisher
“Brilliantly written...a joy to read...a book you are not going to want to miss.”
New York Post

“Beautifully handled...great fun...a gem.”
The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307428561
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/4/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 670,060
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Ben Sherwood is senior producer of the NBC Nightly News.  His nonfiction writing has appeared in many national publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.  Educated at Harvard and Oxford, he now lives in New York, where he is at work on his next novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In the shadow of an ancient bridge, the young lovers leaned into each other with great resolve, lips clenched, arms interlocked. It was a determined kiss, neither soft nor sentimental. Stiff and clumsy, they could have been office colleagues stealing away for a moment on the easy banks of the Seine or students from a nearby école learning the steps of love.

Not far away, behind a red velvet rope, a noisy pack of photographers jockeyed with zoom lenses, capturing the embrace. Flashes strobed and video cameras rolled while the kissers clenched, unflinching. Behind them, on bleachers, several hundred observers shouted encouragement.

“Allez! Vive la France!” one young man cried.

“Courage!” a woman called.

From lampposts on the Île Saint-Louis, bright banners dangled. Remy Martin, Evian, Air France, Wrigley’s — all proud corporate sponsors of the passion play. Men in natty suits surveyed the scene, pleased with the excellent turnout.

In the middle of this bustle, J.J. Smith sat calmly at the judge’s table. He was 34 years old with wavy brown hair, a straight, well-proportioned nose, and an oval face, perhaps a bit soft at the edges. There was a certain authority about him. He wore a navy blazer with a gilded crest on the pocket, linen trousers, and sandy bucks. A closer inspection revealed a few frayed stitches on his shoulders, the hem of his jacket lining stuck together with Scotch tape, pants slightly rumpled, shoes a bit scuffed. He couldn’t be bothered with clothes, really. There were more important matters on his mind. A thick black notebook lay open on the desk in front of him. He inspected the kissers, then checked the pages. So far, not a single violation of the official rules.

“Can I get monsieur anything?” a young woman said, batting eyelashes. She wore a flimsy sundress, and official credentials hung on a chain around her long neck. They were all so solicitous, the French staff. “Perhaps a glass of wine?”

“Non, merci,” he said. A glass of wine would finish him off. He was an easy drunk. “Thanks. I’ve got everything I need.”

“I’m here to help,” she said with a smile. He watched her walk away, slender in the sun.

I’m here to help. Indeed. He mopped his forehead, sipped a bottle of cool spring water, and surveyed the Gallic crowd.

There was something about the kissing record that always turned out the hordes. Just one year earlier, in Tel Aviv, thousands watched Dror Orpaz and Karmit Tsubera shatter the record for continuous kissing. J.J. clocked every second of those 30 hours and 45 minutes in Rabin Square, then rushed by ambulance with the winners to Ichilov Hospital, where they were treated for exhaustion and dehydration. Now, on a spring day in Paris, another young couple was poised to break the record. They were the last two standing from the initial field of 600 entries.

Kissing was an artless record, really. There was no skill involved. Success was more a function of endurance than romance, more stamina than passion. The basic rules were straightforward: lips locked at all times, contestants required to stand up, no rest or toilet breaks. A few additional regulations kept the competition stiff. Rule #4 was his favorite: “The couple must be awake at all times.” Rule #7, though difficult to enforce, was tough on the weak-willed and small-bladdered: “Incontinence pads or adult diapers are not allowed.”

But these logistical challenges were easily overcome. While the novices quit from hunger or thirst after the first eight or ten hours, savvy record seekers solved the nutritional problems with a straw, protein shakes, and Gatorade. Chafed lips, occasionally an issue, were soothed speedily with Chap Stick.

The only truly vexing problem was wanting to kiss someone, anyone, for days, to be completely entwined, utterly entangled. He once knew a woman he loved that much and would have kissed that long. Emily was a travel agent he met at the sandwich shop near work. She was a few years older, sparkly and slim. Her mind vaulted from one random thought to another, impossible to follow, then arrived someplace original and logical after all. He liked the way she kissed, gently, exploring, taking every part of him into account.

“Kissing you is like kissing a country,” she once told him in the doorway of the travel agency. “It’s mysterious, like all the places you go and the people you meet.”

When he proposed marriage, she accepted, but neither of them felt an urgent rush to the altar. Days, months, years went by as he chased records around the world. His trips grew longer, his devotion to The Book deepened. Then one morning, as he packed his roll-on suitcase, Emily’s good-bye speech floated across the bedroom.

“You spend your life searching for greatness,” Emily said, handing over the ring in the velvet box it came in. “You’re reaching for things I can’t give you and I don’t want to spend my life not measuring up.”

“But I love you,” he said. “I really do.” Her decision made no sense. By his count, their 4-year engagement hadn’t even come close to the world record, 67 years, held by Octavio Guilen and Adriana Martínez of Mexico City.

Emily smiled, her lips a bit crooked. “You know everything about the fastest coconut tree climber and the biggest broccoli, but you don’t know the first thing about love.” She wiped a tear from her ocean-colored eyes. “That’s the only kind of greatness that counts, and I hope you find it someday.”

Had he loved her? Had she loved him? He left that day for Finland and the annual World Wife-Carrying Championships. As Imre Ambros of Estonia triumphed, dragging Annela Ojaste over the 771-foot obstacle course in 1 minute 4 1/2 seconds, J.J. began to question the nature of love entirely. The days passed and, like a creeping frost, a numbness spread through his whole body.

“Three more minutes,” a woman shouted. The huge Swatch digital chronometer flashed 30:42:01. The exhausted kissers held each other up, limbs shaking from exertion. An official passed them Evian with two straws. The woman sipped from the corner of her mouth, then threw the bottle on the ground, where it shattered on cobblestones.

This was crunch time, when the record would stand or fall. Three more minutes. With victory, there would be newspaper headlines, saturation television coverage, and J.J. would win a reprieve at headquarters. He was long overdue for a record. The last few verification trips hadn’t gone well. In Germany last month, a yodeler achieved 21 tones in one second, but alas, the record was 22. And before that, an Australian podiatrist with a breathing disorder registered snoring levels of 92 decibels, but the world record was 93. Both failures were hardly his fault, but that wasn’t the way the boss kept score.

If these two could keep it together for 90 more seconds, he would go home triumphant and relax for a while, catch up on paperwork, and read submissions. He would help crank out the next edition by June, then spend the last hot summer nights in the cheap seats at Yankee Stadium. Soon enough, fall would arrive, and before he knew it, Christmas. The years and seasons rushed by this way, marked by little else than the volumes of The Book on his shelf. Fourteen editions, fourteen years.

With 60 seconds left, the first ominous sign. The kissing couple began to sway. The man’s legs wobbled, then his eyes rolled back in his head. His knees buckled. The woman strained to hold him up, her lips locked to his mouth. She clung desperately to his belt, as his body seemed to want to slide right through his pant legs onto the street. His head fell to one side, jaw slackened.

Sweaty and trembling, the woman readjusted, pressing her lips harder against his limp and flabby face. With one bloodshot eye, she checked the chronometer. Just 10 seconds to go. She kissed him furiously. Her body shook, and suddenly, her strength failed. He slithered through her arms to the ground, and she threw herself down on him. She squished her mouth against his, face contorted, kissing with all her might.

Ten feet away, J.J. reluctantly pressed the red button in front of him. The chronometer froze:

30:44:56.

He rose to his feet, an ache in his stomach, and announced: “No record.”

The crowd gasped.

It was close, a mere 4 seconds, but rules were rules. He felt awful for the two kissers, crumpled in a heap. He couldn’t bear to look them in the eyes. There was no wiggle room when it came to world records. Too much was at stake.

“Impossible!” a spectator screamed. Doctors rushed forward to treat the toppled man. One medic pressed an oxygen mask to his face; another listened for the murmuring of his heart. The woman stood over her partner, weeping, as cameramen angled for pictures.

J.J. closed his rule book, slipped it in his well-worn calfskin briefcase. His limbs cracked as he stood; it had been a long 31 hours. He straightened his blazer and grabbed his roll-on from under the table. Careful to avoid contact with the losers, he tried to slip into the crowd.

“Just a few questions,” a journalist said, two steps behind.

“I’m sorry,” J.J. said. “My limousine is waiting. I’m late for my plane.”

“When will you hold another kissing competition?”

“Please contact headquarters. The Review Committee will answer you.”

He turned the corner and disappeared down the Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. He walked quickly, the roll-on bumping wildly behind him. He wanted to get away from the failure, fast. The kissers with no record. The reporters with no story. What would he tell his boss? Another defeat. After several blocks, when he was sure no one was in pursuit, he hailed a taxi. Headquarters didn’t pay for limousines.

“Charles de Gaulle, please,” he said to the driver. “Flight leaves in 40 minutes.”

“Oui, monsieur. No problem.” The driver pulled into traffic. He checked out his passenger in the rearview mirror, with a look of puzzlement in his eyes. “You are from The Book of Records, yes? I saw you last night on television at the kissing competition.”

J.J. smiled. It happened now and then; with all the TV appearances, someone recognized him in the street. And, inevitably, the first question.

“What is the longest taxi ride ever?” the man asked.

“Roundtrip from London to Capetown, South Africa,” J.J. said. “Broke the meter. 21,691 miles. Cost $62,908.”

“I should be so lucky.”

They zipped along the Rue de la Paix in light traffic.

“Where are you from?” the driver asked.

“New York,” J.J. said. “Greatest place on earth.”

The driver scoffed. “Incorrect. Paris is the greatest. The food, women, life.”

“Yeah, yeah, everyone says that. But New York is the greatest.”

“No, monsieur,” the driver said. “In New York, everyone lives on top of other people. How do you say? Like the sardines?”

“Oh, no. We have beautiful homes with lots of space.”

The driver made a small sound of protest — pffff — then turned up the radio.

J.J. closed his eyes. New York or Paris? He regretted the argument. Everywhere, always, people wanted to debate the world’s best and worst, especially when they recognized his blue blazer with the gold insignia.

Yes, he had considered spending the weekend in Paris. He knew a divorcée named Helene who ran a bistro on the Rue de Buci. She fed him exquisite meals and offered her warm back against his at night. She whispered in his ear that she needed nothing in return, but the look in her eyes, the farewell hugs that lasted too long, left him feeling hopelessly sad.

Now he just wanted to get home.

He thought again of Emily’s indictment a few years ago, that he knew nothing about love. He took it as a challenge. He was a relentless researcher and set out to learn everything about the subject. He read classics and pulp romances, crammed Shakespeare and Shelley, studied Mars and Venus, memorized the complete works of Deepak Chopra, delved into anthropology, biochemistry, and psychology from Freud to Dr. Ruth.

He dated too, giving and receiving a fair share of pleasure and disappointment. In the end, true love seemed as remote as Messier 31, a rotating spiral nebula in the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, the farthest object visible to the naked eye, 2.31 million light-years from earth.

But J.J. had learned one thing from experience, repeatedly and for sure. Casual intimacies on the road always ended with someone hurting. So this time, he did not call Helene.

Sticking around in Paris for the weekend also meant consoling the losers in the kissing contest. He knew that grim scene all too well. By now the crowds were long gone, the bright banners rolled up, and the street sweepers had cleaned the last litter from the road. Under the shadow of the drooping bridge, the doctors had finished ministering to the man still lying doubled up on the ground. The chronometer was frozen in time.

30:44:56

The crumpled man and weeping woman were four seconds shy of the world record. Four seconds from global recognition in one of the best-selling books of all time. Four seconds from history.

Over the years, he had comforted thousands of the defeated, men and women who spent long nights muttering “what if?” In The Book, winning was everything. Second place was oblivion. The worst was the inconsolable Pakistani Air Force pilot who desperately wanted recognition for the longest fall without a parachute. Sucked out of his cockpit in a freak midair decompression, he had plummeted 33,301 feet, landed in a lake, and somehow survived. J.J. traveled to Islamabad where the aviator, mummified in bandages, was bedridden with 37 broken bones. Upon careful investigation, though, there was no new record. The pilot had come close — within 30 feet — but the place in history still belonged to Vesna Vulovic, a Yugoslavian flight attendant who fell 33,330 feet when her DC-9 exploded over Czechoslovakia. Learning of his defeat, the Pakistani pilot wept so hard on J.J.’s shoulder that his prized blue blazer was soaked through.

No, there was no point hanging around, or even looking back for that matter. He had gotten involved too many times, stayed too long, cared too much. He learned the hard way. In the end, there was nothing he could do. He was simply there to authenticate. Sentiment only slowed him down; there was always another record somewhere up ahead.

“Monsieur, what airline are you flying?” the driver asked.

J.J. checked his ticket. Headquarters pinched every penny.

“Dollar Jet,” he said. He was seven long hours from home.

Chapter 2

The building on East Fourth Street was crumbling brick by brick. A homeless man was sprawled in the entryway, arms and legs splayed, a copy of Martha Stewart Living open across his bare chest. J.J. stepped over him carefully, saw that the elevator hadn’t been fixed, and trudged up the grimy stairs to his apartment on the fifth floor.

From the Paperback edition.

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Introduction

How far would you go for love? For Wally Chubb of Superior, Nebraska, the answer is breathtaking, and possibly fatal. Morsel by metallic morsel, he’s eating one of the world’s largest airplanes, hoping to win the attention of local newspaper editor Willa Wyatt. Standing by to verify Wally’s feat is J. J. Smith, a veteran staffer for The Book of Records, who has traveled the globe observing the extraordinary achievements of others while leading the most ordinary life himself—so ordinary in fact, that J.J. has never found true love. J.J.’s work has taken him to the most romantic spots on earth, from the Taj Mahal to the Eiffel Tower, yet it’s America’s heartland that holds the unexpected key to his dreams. The trouble is, his dream turns out to be Willa Wyatt, an independent woman who refuses to be wooed; she isn’t even impressed by a man willing to consume a airplane to prove his love. But this small town holds big surprises; all of its citizens make a delicious discovery about the wonder of love.

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Ben Sherwood’s The Man Who Ate the 747. We hope they will enrich your experience of this unforgettable love story.

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Foreword

1. The novel’s first chapter features a couple trying to break the world record for the longest kiss. What does this episode tell us about J.J.’s perspective on love? What is the significance of all the world records in the novel?

2. What drives so many people to go to such lengths to appear in J.J.’s Book of Records? What keeps J.J. from possessing their ambition, determination, and optimism?

3. Why does Wally go on eating the plane even when it fails to impress Willa? Does he actually crave the grindings, or is this something he simply endures in the name of love?

4. In her newspaper editorial, Willa asks readers to admire Superior for its everyday accomplishments, not for the fact that one resident is eating a 747. Do you consider Superior to be an apt name and setting?

5. Ben Sherwood writes that the plane gives Wally wings. In what way is this true? How does Wally inspire other characters to take flight? What are the different notions of greatness in the novel?

6. What causes Wally’s health scares? What does he teach us about devotion and sacrifice? Why was he unable to recognize Rose’s love at first?

7. Sherwood worked as a television news producer for many years. Do you detect any journalistic influences in his writing, or do you feel the book’s magical realism reflects the opposite of a reporter’s perspective?

8. Discuss Willa’s little brother, who anonymously brings Wally to J.J.’s attention and has his own dreams of setting a record. In what way is he the opposite of his sister? In what way is he a reflection of her?

9. J.J. has a startling ability to recallhundreds of statistics and reduce emotional responses to a litany of neurochemistry. Does his penchant for data mirror our society in any way? Why is J.J. best able to rescue his heart in such a rural locale?

10. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love or that’s been done for you? What world record would you want to break to prove your devotion?

11. Wally appears to have a special bond with the airplane that has been rejected and abandoned just as he has. What else does the 747 symbolize?

12. What are the competing definitions of love in this novel? What defines a great couple? Is J.J. a better match for Willa than Wally?

13. What inspires the residents of Superior to finish off the 747? Have any similar incidents occurred in your community?

14. In the end, J.J. asks for new submissions to The Book of Wonders. What story from your own life would you submit?

15. What does this novel ultimately say about love and extraordinary behavior? Who are the book’s real heroes?

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Reading Group Guide

1. The novel’s first chapter features a couple trying to break the world record for the longest kiss. What does this episode tell us about J.J.’s perspective on love? What is the significance of all the world records in the novel?

2. What drives so many people to go to such lengths to appear in J.J.’s Book of Records? What keeps J.J. from possessing their ambition, determination, and optimism?

3. Why does Wally go on eating the plane even when it fails to impress Willa? Does he actually crave the grindings, or is this something he simply endures in the name of love?

4. In her newspaper editorial, Willa asks readers to admire Superior for its everyday accomplishments, not for the fact that one resident is eating a 747. Do you consider Superior to be an apt name and setting?

5. Ben Sherwood writes that the plane gives Wally wings. In what way is this true? How does Wally inspire other characters to take flight? What are the different notions of greatness in the novel?

6. What causes Wally’s health scares? What does he teach us about devotion and sacrifice? Why was he unable to recognize Rose’s love at first?

7. Sherwood worked as a television news producer for many years. Do you detect any journalistic influences in his writing, or do you feel the book’s magical realism reflects the opposite of a reporter’s perspective?

8. Discuss Willa’s little brother, who anonymously brings Wally to J.J.’s attention and has his own dreams of setting a record. In what way is he the opposite of his sister? In what way is he a reflection of her?

9. J.J. has a startling ability to recall hundreds of statistics and reduce emotional responses to a litany of neurochemistry. Does his penchant for data mirror our society in any way? Why is J.J. best able to rescue his heart in such a rural locale?

10. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love or that’s been done for you? What world record would you want to break to prove your devotion?

11. Wally appears to have a special bond with the airplane that has been rejected and abandoned just as he has. What else does the 747 symbolize?

12. What are the competing definitions of love in this novel? What defines a great couple? Is J.J. a better match for Willa than Wally?

13. What inspires the residents of Superior to finish off the 747? Have any similar incidents occurred in your community?

14. In the end, J.J. asks for new submissions to The Book of Wonders. What story from your own life would you submit?

15. What does this novel ultimately say about love and extraordinary behavior? Who are the book’s real heroes?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Jennifer Wardrip - Personal Read

    How far would you go for someone you loved? We've all heard people state that they'd lie or die for a loved one, but would you eat a Boeing 747 jet plane? <BR/><BR/>Such is the case for Wally Chubb, a man on a mission to garner the attention of Willa Wyatt, the town's newspaper editor. Wally has been in love with her ever since she was the only schoolmate to attend his tenth birthday party--and now that he wants her attention, wants her to see just exactly how far he'd go to gain her approval and admiration, a jumbo jet has fallen from the sky like manna from Heaven. <BR/><BR/>When J.J. Smith gets an anonymous letter summoning him to Superior , Nebraska , to meet a man attempting to eat a 747, he's not sure what to do. For The Keeper of the Records--the man in charge of verifying all records for The Book of Records (similar to The Guinness Book of World Records)--the thought that someone would attempt to eat an airplane is intriguing. It's been awhile since he's found a great record, and his boss is starting to intimate that after fourteen years, J.J. is burnt out. <BR/><BR/>But John Smith, a small-town boy who got out as soon as he could, measures his life by the records that he verifies. He's seen greatness a thousand times over, and in turn felt justified in living a life of little emotion, of little love. Until he pulls into Superior , Nebraska , and witnesses "the greatest love, ever." <BR/><BR/>THE MAN WHO ATE THE 747 is a testament not just to how far a person will go for someone they love, but how a town reacts to momentary greatness, how it recovers from loss, and how you can find love in the strangest places. <BR/><BR/>I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you did, too, I would recommend Ben Sherwood's second release, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHARLIE ST. CLOUD.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2012

    Moonstar

    *nods* you are welcome. If you need me my den is the second result. *pads to er den*

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    THE BOOK THAT GOT MY ADULT DAUGHTER TO LOVE TO READ, FINALLY!

    This is a wonderful, delightful story that was a pleasure to read. The characters in the book are fully realized and we quickly know them very well. They are odd, quirky, loving small town people who are faced with the sudden attention of the world as the Man Who Ate the 747 finally makes news after years of it being the town secret. It is mostly about love, loyalty, and friendship. The lure of breaking an extraordinary world record in order to win love is breath-taking for those of us who value true love and wonder how far we might go to attain it. I love this book, have read it twice and think it would make such a good movie. I wish some one in Hollywood would take a look at it, it would be great! This book is light-hearted and an easy read, and by the end you will be wishing there was more to read. Couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2001

    A perfect summer novel!

    Tears of laughter streamed down my face as I read the exploits of Wally, Wilma and JJ. This gentle,quirky story needs to be shared among a larger audience.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2012

    One of the best love stories!

    I could not put this book down! It was inspiring and well written! When it was done i had wished there was more of the book to read. You should def buy this book great buy and hard to put down!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A Nice Weekend Read

    This was a wonderful book to pass the weekend. I enjoyed getting to know these characters and so will you!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 21, 2011

    Book

    Is this a good book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 31, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Book!

    I've been wanting to buy this book, but every Barnes and Noble store I wen't to didn't carry it. So I FINALLY bought a Nook, and this book was my first read. I absolutely LOVE this book and highly recommend!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Good Book

    I really like the way this author writes. He builds stories that are straight-forward, realistic and so sweet. He really gets inside his characters without being boring or sappy. His stories also have a subtle magical quality to them that just makes you feel good. If you're looking for an enjoyable, light but meaningful read, this is it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 4, 2011

    good book

    The Man Who Ate The 747 is a fantastic book! Hearts Will be stopped!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Inspirational Story of Life and Love

    How far would you go for someone you loved? We've all heard people state that they'd lie or die for a loved one, but would you eat a Boeing 747 jet plane? Such is the case for Wally Chubb, a man on a mission to garner the attention of Willa Wyatt, the town's newspaper editor. Wally has been in love with her ever since she was the only schoolmate to attend his tenth birthday party--and now that he wants her attention, wants her to see just exactly how far he'd go to gain her approval and admiration, a jumbo jet has fallen from the sky like manna from Heaven. When J.J. Smith gets an anonymous letter summoning him to Superior , Nebraska , to meet a man attempting to eat a 747, he's not sure what to do. For The Keeper of the Records--the man in charge of verifying all records for The Book of Records (similar to The Guinness Book of World Records)--the thought that someone would attempt to eat an airplane is intriguing. It's been awhile since he's found a great record, and his boss is starting to intimate that after fourteen years, J.J. is burnt out. But John Smith, a small-town boy who got out as soon as he could, measures his life by the records that he verifies. He's seen greatness a thousand times over, and in turn felt justified in living a life of little emotion, of little love. Until he pulls into Superior , Nebraska , and witnesses 'the greatest love, ever.' THE MAN WHO ATE THE 747 is a testament not just to how far a person will go for someone they love, but how a town reacts to momentary greatness, how it recovers from loss, and how you can find love in the strangest places. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you did, too, I would recommend Ben Sherwood's second release, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHARLIE ST. CLOUD.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2002

    Great soul searching

    This is a great book if your really looking to find just what love is meant to be. Wally puts a great twist in this book, if you are light hearted and not into the sappy kind of book, this is it!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2001

    Great love story

    The Man Who Ate the 747 is the great story of a lonely man who travels the world chasing records for a world record book. Desperate for an unusual record, he hears about a man who is eating a 747 to prove his love for a woman. He travels to a small Kansas town and finds himself changed by the interesting cast of characters he meets. This is a great love story that makes one wonder: How far would you go for love?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2000

    Finding the love of your life!!!

    Eating a 747 to prove your love for a woman may not be the most common of ways, but this book is uncommon in every way. It is a tale of Wally's love for a woman and his extraordinary way of showing it. This book is a grand adventure of fact and fiction in the heartland. It will make you smile, laugh, cry and it make you ask yourself, what would you do for love. 747 provides you with a story you can't put down and that you will lose yourself in. It will make you wonder if you have found the Wally or J.J. in your own life. It will surely give you hope that you will and it will be when and where you least expect it. Ben Sherwood has provided us with a story that will open your heart and teach you of love in its most vulnerable state. I loved the way this story weaves the town and all its glory into the values of the loves lost and found in Superior, Nebraska.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2000

    He REALLY eats a 747!!

    I enjoyed this book so much, I read it in only a few nights. The love story is not so new, but the characters and situations put a wonderful new spin on it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2000

    shockingly surprising!!

    i was most pleasantly surprised by the humor and insight of mr sherwood in his novel. frankly, i found the title to be somewhat offsetting but once i got into the book, i could not put it down. mr. sherwood is a find! i can hardly wait for his next surprise !

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2000

    wonderful, fresh & uplifting

    Very nice to read a book with not only a wonderful writing style, but a very uplifting message. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read this authors next book. Many times while reading this book, I thought to myself, 'what a wonderful way to put that thought.' The story is interesting and touching. Characters were vivid and fun. This was a very fast read. I couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2000

    A good 'Harlequin' book

    And that's not a bad comment, for people who love romance novels, this one is a good one. However, it does not compare , for example, to 'the notebook'. These two people meet, fall in love, but I don't know why, it sounded pretty shallow to me. A good read anyway, but I would say that you should borrow it from the library, and even then, no need to rush.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews

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