In Understanding the Sky—illustrated by over 150 of the author’s photographs—we see the everyday world sprawling 3,000 feet below through the eyes of a man on the day of his long dreamed-of first flight in a tiny ultralight aircraft. Who is this man? He wants to fly. What is this man searching for? He is searching for a bit of escape. Maybe some danger. Has he told his wife about this? He has not told his wife about this.
Flying high above the earth, we see what he sees—the secret arrangement of houses like playing cards on a table, green hills like sleeping brontosauruses, cows and elk and people down below, going about the business of everyday life. If the world is so beautiful from so high up, he wonders—with such unending wonder, then why don’t people want to fly? What makes us tether ourselves so tightly to the ground? To the endless predictable obligations of terrestrial life? Also, what is that beeping sound? And why is it that so high up in the sky, the seat belt on this thing will just not stay latched?
Once again, Eggers invites us to move beyond our notions of how stories can be told and how a book can be experienced. At once a tightly written story and a beautifully designed art book—Understanding the Sky combines breathtaking aerial photos with a searching, funny meditation on the things we put in between ourselves and our dreams.