Recently I read a terrific little book.
Alain de Botton's A Week at the Airport.
It was my seventh venture into the world of de Botton -- and as always, a wonderful, thoughtful, humorous, and rewarding time.
In this, his most recent book, the Swiss-born, London-living author is commissioned by BAA [they own London's Heathrow Airport] to spend a week as writer-in-residence. Like Tom Hanks in Terminal he is there ALL THE TIME, except in this case, the vagrant brandishes an all-expense-paid voucher for everything, including lavish meals in The Concorde Room and his sleeping quarters in the attached hotel.
Furnished with a desk in the very middle of all the action [see photo below] Alain was given free-access to everything Heathrow! In his inimitably witty and incisive way, he proceeds to illuminate all aspects of airport life, modestly sprinkling his wealth of incidental knowledge as he goes. And as you turn the pages, you are met with the brilliant accompanying photographs of Richard Baker. Oh, what a beautiful book.
I think my favourite part was when the author visits the in-house book store.
After his bracketed note that none of his own titles are on the shelves he goes on to discuss what is, in fact, there. Ironically, TERROR seems to be a predominant genre! You've got to admit, airport bookstores are indeed reaching out to a different clientele than your local antiquarian bookseller. The author strikes up a convo with store manager Manishankar:
"I explained…that I was looking for the sort of books in which a genial voice expresses emotions that the reader has long felt, but never before really understood; those that convey the secret, everyday things that society at large prefers to leave unsaid; those that make one feel somehow less alone and strange."
As I read this, I nearly spewed coffee through my nose!
Because I had to realize that these are exactly the kind of books that de Botton himself writes!
Then this: Manishankar wondered if I might like a magazine instead.
In my opinion, de Botton could be assigned the topic of "Sewer Effluent in the Middle Ages" and produce a book along those lines which would thoroughly engage the reader.
So -- just think of what he does with this airport!
It is definitely a worthwhile read! I highly recommend that you find yourself a copy of this thing, and while you're at it, pick up some other works by this author.
You will not be disappointed.
In an interview, when asked what he does all day, Alain replied “Sit at home, at the top of the house, and think about stuff."
Any reader will be thankful that de Botton does not stay up there, but climbs down from the attic…. and writes.