Eric Kraft | Flying (Picador)

book_flying.jpgKraft uses an interesting technique, having the narrator rewrite events so as to make them more exciting.




$16, trade paperback, 560 pgs.

Flying is a trilogy of novels—the previously published Taking Off and On the Wing with the final part, Flying Home—from Eric Kraft’s series "The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy." Though he’s a lauded author (his book bio says he "was the receipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and has been awarded the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature"), Flying was my first experience with Kraft; hence, I’m approaching this review as a first-time reader, unfamiliar with all that preceded it.

Flying is, as you’ve probably gathered, a tale of Peter Leroy, legendary boy pilot…or was he? It’s told in an every-other-chapter past/present format, an interesting technique and one that keeps the reader engaged, following two stories at once.

The background (past story) is this: the teenaged Peter built a flying machine (with the help of family and friends) and flew solo to a made-up camp in New Mexico. As a result, he’s a hometown hero, the Bird Boy of Babbington. Though he’s presently living in New York, returns home are met with accolades and awe. After all, he’s Peter Leroy; he put his town on the map and made its residents proud.

Interspersed with the retelling of his adolescent journey is the present-day trip Peter and his wife, Albertine, are taking, retracing his trip via rented automobile. The past-tense is relayed by Peter to his wife—a bit of a hokey literary technique, especially considering he would have probably told her this earlier in their marriage—as they revisit the towns he traveled through.

Kraft uses an interesting technique in the present tense, having Peter rewrite events so as to make them more exciting. For example, Albertine ends up in the hospital following a fall; however, later in the hospital, he admits to her his revisionistic tendencies:

"Did you write about the crash?" she asked, with a bit of vacancy at the end, as if she had omitted yet.

"Yes," I said. "I set it in Central Park."

"A much nicer setting," she said. "Much nicer. But why there? Why did you put us there?"

"I had you crash into a dogboarder instead of a construction worker."

The book is quite long—560 pages—and sometimes tedious; a lot of the time it feels as if Peter (Kraft) is speaking just to hear himself talk, rambling on and on, finding multiple words to tell a simple story. I’ll admit that, on more than one occasion, I thought about not going on. Sure, I wanted to find out what happened…but it wasn’t life or death, and it wasn’t going to be easy. Flying is, to be sure, a commitment, of both your time and your patience. It also involves your willingness to accept the story (stories) as presented, despite how it often feels unbelievable or outlandish.

Still, the voice of Peter Leroy is a distinct one, long-winded and revisionistic, but one out to tell a tale or two; you just have to decide if you want to go along for the flight. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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