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Enjoyable and informative—perfect in-flight reading.

An unfiltered meditation on the airport, a space that de Botton (The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, 2009, etc.) argues is representative of humanity's philosophical outlook.

While spending a week in London's Heathrow Airport as its first “writer-in-residence,” the author was given a desk positioned in the departures hall, generous access to the airport's nooks and crannies and a room at the adjacent hotel, all with the expectation that he would compose a book on-site. The result is this slim, lighthearted volume, which is often punctuated with wry observations about things most travelers don't think twice about—e.g., the assembly of in-flight meals or the popularity of thrillers at the airport bookstores (“High above the earth, [passengers] were looking to panic about being murdered, and thereby to forget their more mundane fears”). The author synthesizes hundreds of these small details into a sociological report, concluding that the airport encompasses many of the tenets of modern culture. Whether it's our increased reliance on technology—from the automated check-in to the fantastically complicated management of coded flight patterns—the simple comfort of being greeted at the arrivals gate or the erection of a new, aesthetically adventurous terminal designed by Richard Rogers, the details of an airport reflect human ambition and desire. De Botton also doesn't miss the opportunity to include a few witticisms about the contrast between the life of an author and that of an airline pilot: “I would never be able to acquire the virtues that I so admired in them...and must instead forever remain a hesitant and inadequate creature who would almost certainly start weeping if asked to land a 777 amid foggy ground conditions in Newfoundland.” In addition to the author's musings, each page is adorned with an accompanying full-color photograph by Richard Baker, lending visual evidence that is especially welcome when de Botton explores the areas of Heathrow that are off-limits to the average traveler, like the corporate offices of British Airways’ CEO or the middle of an airstrip at midnight. Not surprisingly, it is often in these behind-the-scenes moments that the author's perceptions are especially keen.

Enjoyable and informative—perfect in-flight reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-73967-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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