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On Extended Wings: An Adventure in Flight based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
You would think it would be easier to teach a poet to fly than to teach a flyer to write poetry, but Diane Ackerman had a lot of trouble in the early stages of her flight instruction. She whines about it a good deal, and lays a lot of the blame on the instructors at her home airport of Ithaca, New York. Finally she takes a temporary job at Williamsburg and manages to learn faster from the people there at that smaller and cozier airport. It still takes her thirty-five hours to solo. She¿s pretty good on the way learning flying, for most of us, works in plateaus of achievement, with the climb to the next level looking awfully steep from the point we¿ve managed to get to. She can be good about the phrases that instructors use (¿dance the rudders . . . fly the plane to the ground¿) and in analysis of why: ¿The art of flying is overcoming the lure of passivity. . . . the enemy is only ever the same, with its potion of inertia and mask of quiet¿).I don¿t know whether she kept a meticulous journal of the process of learning to fly, but if not she is very good at remembering what it was like and pointing out how much it changes with some mastery: ¿What you lose is novelty, the human craving to revel in perception. When you master something, you lose all the qualities that first attracted you to it.¿ Like all poets, she has a few verbal touchstones that appear more than once: golden-shouldered parakeets and lines from Wallace Stevens. Occasionally the metaphors get a bit tedious; there is a paragraph of ¿the clouds that are . . . .¿ that goes through cotton tufts, white ducks, an Appaloosa¿s spots, cheese curds, cotton candy, etc. But usually the metaphors are precise and helpful: speaking of the body, she talks about ¿molecular zippers, and . . . the cottage industry in every organ and cell.¿She inserts a chapter about Oshkosh, where she flies with a friend who owns a twin. Just as she is getting ready to take the written, her Williamsburg instructor is killed in a plane crash. She stays on the ground for a month before the dead instructor¿s friend gets her flying again, and she goes on to get her license. The instructor¿s death comes about twenty-five pages before the book¿s end, and the remainder seems somewhat hurried after the leisured pace with which she¿s treated the dual cross-country training, the short solo cross-country, the long cross-country, and other parts of the learning process.