Suspend Your Disbelief

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Heathrow's writer-in-residence

Heathrow Terminal 5

Does the above photo–of London’s Heathrow Airport–inspire you to write? English novelist Tony Parsons is hoping it will inspire him. Earlier this summer, Parsons spent a week in Heathrow as the airport’s writer-in-residence, working on a collection due out this month. Reports the airport’s press release:

Departures: Seven Stories from Heathrow will be Parsons’ 13th book and his first collection of short stories. Inspired by Airport, the 1960’s bestselling novel about a large metropolitan airport and the personalities of the people who use and rely on its operation, Parsons wants to revive this genre of airport fiction made famous by Arthur Hailey.

During his residency, Parsons will roam the terminals to unearth the stories of the people that pass through its doors, with the events inspiring the plotline and the passengers its characters. At the author’s request, Parsons will also meet airport staff including pilots, air traffic control officers, police, fire chiefs and immigration officers.

And The Economist ponders the benefits for the airport:

What is Heathrow hoping to get out of the scheme? Publicity, certainly. But the airport is also attempting to inject a little glamour back into the experience of flying. Travelling by plane usually conjures up images of a few too many hours spent twiddling thumbs in chairs with unsettling stains. Or worse, a stressful stumble from one bottlenecked queue to another, and then the dreary fumble to collect one’s shoes, belt, bags, computer and other detritus.

Reinvigorating the appeal of novels set in airports—such as Arthur Hailey’s dramatic novel “Airport”, which Mr Parsons cites as an inspiration for his own project—seems like a tall order in these recessionary, post-9/11 times.

Perhaps the idea of a writer-in-residence at an airport isn’t so strange after all. What if famous department stores–like Macy’s in Manhattan–or hotels, like the Plaza, sponsored writers and their work? How about museums like the Smithsonian, or Dollywood, or the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory? Personally, I’d love to be a writer-in-residence–literally–at the San Diego Zoo or the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. What’s your dream write-in-residence location?

Literary Partners