A Week at the Airport Paperback – Sep 21 2010
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"De Botton's most imaginative work yet"
— The Spectator.
"Funny, charming and slender enough to pack in your carry-on."
— Daily Mail
"His observations on airport life are wry and thought-provoking . . . excellent."
"Shrewd, perceptive and gently ironic . . . At de Botton's T5, banality and sublimity circle in a perpetual holding pattern."
About the Author
ALAIN DE BOTTON has published seven previous non-fiction books: The Architecture of Happiness, Essays in Love, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Status Anxiety, The Art of Travel, How Proust Can Change Your Life, and The Consolations of Philosophy, three of which were made into TV documentaries. He has also published two novels: The Romantic Movement and Kiss and Tell. In 2004, Status Anxiety was awarded the prize for the Economics Book of the Year by the Financial Times, Germany. Cambridge-educated, de Botton is a frequent contributor to numerous newspapers, journals, and magazines. His work is published in twenty-five countries.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Every traveling writer I know spends boring hours in airports, and we all while away the hours of waiting by journaling. We all struggle to amuse ourselves by observing and reflecting on what we see in the airport. That is what de Botton has done, and the book is as good or bad as our journal pages written in airports.
It is not painful to read, but it is not an important book either.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'm probably a little unusual in that I love airports and attempt to arrive much earlier than is really necessary so I can get airside as soon as possible and begin to immerse myself in the world of the terminal. I've never been to terminal 5 but the world that de Botton describes could be any large airport terminal; it feels very familiar.
I loved de Botton's perceptive writing and his incisive and insightful look at the lifeblood of the airport. The book is funny, interesting and very engaging. He meets a variety of people and captures their essence in a few short words; impressive observational writing. The photographs by Richard Baker make the book and it wouldn't be as good or feel as complete without them.
This little book is thoroughly enjoyable for the high quality writing and high quality photography. It's one of my favourite books read this year and I'll be getting The Art of Travel soon!
This man has something worthwhile to say and a piercing intellect with which to say it. The executive who chose him to profile the airport should be promoted. Fine writing is like a journey and as Mr. De Botton has taught us, travel is an art. Obviously the author leaves traces of his biases and interests in any work and reading this work only serves to increase my envy of those travelers who, having encountered the man at the table, were able to engage him in a two-sided conversation.
However, a one-sided conversation with this author quite suffices. Lest your powers of perception be dim, this is a book about an airport--nothing more, nothing less. We need, sometimes, to be reminded of the successes of our culture and the example of a Ghanian family leaving London with a prized new possession sums it up nicely. The airport may contain a posh and comfortable retreat for the wealthy, but as a whole represents the strivings of an entire civilization to explore and do business to the limits of the globe itself.
An airport is an enterprise worth describing and this book does credit to the concept of turning a trained observer loose on what may otherwise escape our attention.
His assignment as Writer in Residence gave him full privileges to wander the airport, night and day, and he doesn't miss a thing from security, loneliness, behind-the-scenes workers, and mechanical marvels. de Botton writes with a conversational tone as though he is thinking aloud, as in his other books, and he invites us in to look into the lives of travelers.
I look forward to seeing the airport through de Botton's eyes the next time I pack a bag and travel. And, with great anticipation, I will also await Alain de Botton's next book, wherever the world takes him.
Helen Gallagher Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way
In this wonderful little book, the author spent a week wandering around the new terminal at London's Heathrow Airport, talking to passengers and employees alike and observing everything going on. He talks to everyone, from the head of British Airways to someone who cleans the restrooms.
This is a terrific behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of an airport. You might think it sounds dull but it's not that at all.
"If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world."
These days, truth be told, “the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world” don’t sound quite as suffocating as they did then, and whether the book has resonated in quite the same way with those to whom I’ve since loaned my copy, I can’t say. Regardless, I recall my early readings of the book with fond memories.
It was a delight, then, to discover that the author had revisited some of the same themes in a subsequent, book called A Week at the Airport, a slim volume featuring stunning full-color photos by Richard Baker and arranged in four sections: Approach, Departures, Airside, and Arrivals.
True to the title, the author spent a week in Terminal Five at Heathrow Airport in London, having been invited to serve as writer-in-residence by a representative of the company that managed Heathrow and a number of other airports around the world. He was given a desk in full view of travelers and was tasked with writing what he saw, felt, and experienced—all while asking questions befitting a philosopher.
The result is a fun, brisk-paced book that nonetheless manages to touch on some of the deeper elements of the human experience, like mortality, self-analysis, and longing—the kinds of things anyone who has spent time in airports and airplanes knows all about. Take this passage for example:
"Nowhere was the airport’s charm more concentrated than on the screens placed at intervals across the terminal which announced, in deliberately workmanlike fonts, the itineraries of aircraft about to take to the skies. These screens implied a feeling of infinite and immediate possibility: they suggested the ease with which we might impulsively approach a ticket desk and, within a few hours, embark for a country where the call to prayer rang out over shuttered whitewashed houses, where we understood nothing of the language and where no one knew our identities. The lack of detail about the destinations served only to stir unfocused images of nostalgia and longing: Tel Aviv, Tripoli, St Petersburg, Miami, Muscat via Abu Dhabi, Algiers, Grand Cayman via Nassau … all of these promises of alternative lives, to which we might appeal at moments of claustrophobia and stagnation."
Or how about this reflection spurred by the comings and goings that airports so deeply epitomize:
"Out of the millions of people we live among, most of whom we habitually ignore and are ignored by in turn, there are always a few that hold hostage our capacity for happiness, whom we could recognize by their smell alone and whom we would rather die than be without."
If these excerpts stir anything within you, consider picking up A Week at the Airport next time you’re planning for a trip. If you like what you read, you’d do well to follow it up with The Art of Travel.
- See more at: http://timhoiland.com/2014/08/departures-and-arrivals/