Guest blogger Liam Callanan is the author of The Cloud Atlas, and the fortcoming All Saints (2/07). Find out more by visiting his website, or, if you're a registered student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, by taking one of his classes this fall.
They're still not on to us, after all these years.
That was my takeaway after we dropped my father-in-law off at Milwaukee's best-in-the-nation airport, Mitchell Field. Everyone in the security line was oddly unladen, clearly heeding to the new TSA requirements. Gone were the carry-ons and shopping bags, trays of lattes and water. In their places...books. Every other person was carrying a book, nothing else. And through the line they went, heads bent to the page.
Five hundred fifty one years after Gutenberg, bookmakers are still at it, and unless someone comes up with the ill-advised notion of turning out gel- or liquid-based novels, I think we readers and writers still have a bright future.
At least we do in Milwaukee. If you're not from Beer Town, then you probably scoffed at my claiming we had the nation's best airport. But I'm sorry, we do. It's not just the computerized wall map of the United States, which tracks every incoming flight in real time, so you can see precisely what part of South Dakota grandad is over at that very moment, or the fact that motorcycle riders -- this is the home of Harley Davidson -- get parking so preferred it's about 20 steps to the gate. Or that you can buy a motorcycle in the retail court.
It's the bookstore. Long after you decided there was no such thing as a great airport bookstore, you come across the one in Mitchell airport, which offers new, used and rare books, magazines and newspapers in an appropriately disorganized maze of bookshelves. It's hard to describe what the experience is like -- other than check-in or baggage claim, when have you ever encountered anything disorganized in airport? Post 9/11, unattended bags get detonated. Luckily, Renaissance Books at Mitchell is, for the moment, fret-free. I bought a Berlin travel guide there and not long after found myself in that very city.
My advice: come to Milwaukee and see where you end up.