The very first book that I read of Arthur Hailey’s was “Hotel”. This was way back in 1981 when I was in my 8th standard. I found it fascinating and soon managed to read all his other books, borrowing them from different libraries as was the case then. Then we had our own book shop for a few years and his books continued to sell well. Finally the digital era dawned and “Kindle” came into existence. From 2009 … most of our reading has shifted to the Kindle app because its easier to carry and you could carry your entire library !
A few days back I saw that Arthur Hailey’s “Airport” was being sold for $0.91 and I immediately bought it. Just completed reading it today and it has made me want to go back and read all the other titles. In the past four days, my vocabulary has expanded and several new words have gotten added to it. Here’s are some of the words that I was hearing for the first time – “Sally – a sudden charge or a sortie”, “Lustrum – a period of five years”, “Whited Sepulcher”, “Argosy – a large merchant ship”, “Somniferous – tending to induce sleep”, “Obstreperous – noisy and difficult to control”, and “Picayune – petty”.
Airport was first written in 1968 and the Kindle version that I bought has been updated more recently and some of the words have been changed to remain in tune with the times. The airport in the “Airport” is the Lincoln International airport at Chicago. Well there is O’Hare at Chicago and I guess the name Lincoln was used to make it a fictional airport. Its fascinating that when I read the Airport first I didn’t know where Chicago was and now I have been to Chicago so many times !!!
It was fascinating to read about “stowaways” because in the current situation Ada Quonsett would not get past the entry gate without a ticket. At the time when this novel was written, people could actually board a plane to say good bye or handover something forgotten and then get off – contrast that with today where your friend or family member just drops you off at the entry to the airport because its just useless to try and even enter the terminal.
The story is masterfully woven around several tracks – the airport GM, his brother and his brother-in-law and their lives. The masterful story teller that Arthur Hailey was, he brings the three folks together right at the end of the novel where the GM manages to get the runway cleared for the brother-in-law’s explosion-damaged airplane and the GM’s brother is at the ATC bringing in the airplane ! Nice. You get a great sense of how an airport functions and all the small little issues that plague an airline executive on a regular day at work.
Some statements were outstanding and I highlighted them – The GM remembers the English poet John Donne who wrote – “No man is an island; entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” A timeless observation that holds good to this day and will hold good in the future. There is also a very powerful statement made by the pilot who is being audited by the GM’s brother-in-law – “You don’t need a religion, to believe in human ethics.” Guess I will frame that one !
Do read the “Airport” if you haven’t already. I do plan to re-read all of Arthur Hailey’s books. They are a treasure house of knowledge and having visited some of the places mentioned in these books, they become so much more real.