Richard Bach Arthur G. Hansen - Essay

Arthur G. Hansen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There is no doubt that Bach is passionate about the realm of flight. In fact, flying to Bach is almost a religious experience, and his final essay in [A Gift of Wings] comes close to saying just that…. If the sky is symbolic of God, the airplane becomes the physical entity coalescing with the human spirit to provide the ritualistic act of worship. The airplane becomes an extension of the flyer. No mere assemblage of nuts and bolts, it is capable of responses (so Bach would claim) that almost transcend physical laws—at least if the aircraft has received tender, loving care. References to airplanes are on an intimate level….

Here are the stories of an unblushing romanticist—a latter-day Icarus with his gift of wings. While a "white-knuckle" air traveler may fail to appreciate Bach's peculiar perspective, his style and enthusiasm will undoubtedly make an impression. But the book does, nevertheless, have some depth to it.

Basically, this is an accounting of one man's feelings about life and the things that make life worth living. Flying is the means for expression rather than an end in itself. Readers of Jonathan Livingston Seagull will catch the significance of Bach's remark, "Flying, once again, is overcoming, not the distance from here to Nantucket, but the distance from here to perfection." Flying is aimed at finding life itself and of living it in the present. It is the challenge of independence—"If you wish a world where your destiny rests completely in your own hands, chances are that you are a naturally born pilot." One suspects that the main issue under discussion in A Gift of Wings is the never-ending search for transcendence. This was also the core of Jonathan—we really can be more than we are if we try hard enough. We all have the means to do so. What we need is the will, an adventuresome spirit, and an idea of what we might eventually become with practice and effort….

Bach has a passion and a pen and he puts the two together with warmth and skill. If one wishes a bit of spirit-lifting along with pleasurable reading, then Richard Bach's A Gift of Wings is certainly worth examining.

Arthur G. Hansen, "The Saturday Evening Post Bookshelf: 'A Gift of Wings'," in The Saturday Evening Post (reprinted with permission from The Saturday Evening Post Company © 1975), Vol. 249, No. 3, April, 1975, p. 72.