Crisp, clean prose juxtaposed with unexpected flourishes characterize this book. The first published work by author T. M. McNally is a collection of intersecting stories which are at once tangential and tantalizing. This book was published in 1991 with the aid of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and won McNally the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.
In 1991 I was in first grade, began to read and flew on a plane for the first time. Low Flying Aircraft first found me at the discard shelf at the local library. I bought it for one dollar. I do not own the book anymore, so this review is done out of memory—which seems fitting as memory and loss are two more of the themes which McNally explores. For many years this book was out of print although the publisher gave it new life in paperback in 2008.
To say that this book has been under-appreciated would be an understatement. My copy came from the time when card catalogs were physical things and not amorphous electronic databases. I recall that the book had a history of check-outs taped to the last page that was blank save for a red stamp proclaiming DISCARD. It was a nice, laminated hardcover that felt right. I remember rereading it, each time more slowly, savoring the words on the page. It was my first foray into the realm of modern literary fiction.
Each story in this book shifts across time (late 20th century) and geography (the Americas—including but not limitted to Arizona, Chicago, Peru) as the characters revolve around each other. Flashbacks and foreshadowing occur and reoccur throughout. One of my favorite stories in this collection was "The Range of Monocular Vision" which featured a man who lost one eye at an early age. Another story, Gun Law at Vermillion references and takes its title from a 1951 novel by author L. P. Holmes.
The narration shifts from first peron to third, sometimes even within a single story. Conveniently, the main character of each story is given at the outset, along with a year.
Portions of this book are viewable through Google books. I strongly encourage you to check it out if you enjoy books that read like films that look like life .
Low Flying Aircraft is also the name of a jazz/prog-rock band (they released one self-titled LP in 1987) and a 1979 experimental song by Pulp Music.
In 1976 J.G. Ballard wrote a book of stories entitled Low Flying Aircraft. The title story, a dystopian yarn, was adapted as the Portuguese film "Aparelho Voador a Baixa Altitude".