If you haven't read the Spanish writer Javier Marías, you're really missing out. His three-volume Your Face Tomorrow is a stunning literary achievement, may be the best book of the past decade. Just to get a taste of his work, though, check out his short piece, "Airships," in the newly released anthology The Best Technology Writing 2010. The story, which first appeared in Granta, is a bouncy riff on the odd relationships we develop with different kinds of technologies.
Marías begins with his own fear of flying, detailing his need to act as an imaginary co-pilot, who must remain "attentive not only to any possible changes of mood in the engines, or to the plane's recognizable or unexpected noises, or to its scheduled or unscheduled ups and downs." Apparently, the only way he's gotten over his phobia is to carry and caress a wooden plane figurine given to him by a stewardess.
"And that same air hostess, as well as recounting a few anecdotes from her long experience in the air, made me think of planes, for the first time, as relatively 'humanizable' objects, which one could, in a way, and depending on the circumstances, mentally direct," Marías writes. "Not that there's anything very remarkable about that. Indeed, it's perfectly normal. She told me in her letter that whenever the plane she was on lurched or bumped about a bit or jolted, she would issue a silent order: 'Down, boy!' Yes, an order, an exorcism, a persuasive word."