Taking Off
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Taking Off

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by Eric Kraft

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One day, middle-aged Manhattanite Peter Leroy receives an unsettling postcard from a childhood classmate. With his wife, Albertine, he returns to his hometown of Babbington, Long Island, and finds it both transformed and strangely the same.

For Babbington has been "redefined" as a theme park, in a scheme to draw tourists to the struggling community, complete

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One day, middle-aged Manhattanite Peter Leroy receives an unsettling postcard from a childhood classmate. With his wife, Albertine, he returns to his hometown of Babbington, Long Island, and finds it both transformed and strangely the same.

For Babbington has been "redefined" as a theme park, in a scheme to draw tourists to the struggling community, complete with trained actors, cultural interpreters, and carefully designed simulations of small-town 1950s life. On the wall of Legends restaurant, Peter sees his own commemoration: a picture of the triumphant day when, as a fifteen-year-old boy, he landed on Babbington's Main Street in the aerocycle he had built in his parents' garage, having flown four thousand miles to New Mexico and back.

Hailed in newspapers as the "Birdboy of Babbington," the youthful inventor reveled in his fame—-but never disclosed the truth behind his flight. Now Peter wants to set the record straight—-and with Albertine as his muse and conscience, he begins.

Taking Off is the first in a trilogy of novels about Peter Leroy's magical flight and its digressions along the way. Funny, warm, wise, and artful, this book—-like all of its companion novels about Peter and his world—-explores matters little and large with a light touch. Readers familiar with and new to these novels will delight in the wide-ranging invention and imagination of Peter's creator, Eric Kraft.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Eric Kraft and his Peter Leroy Novels

"An ever-evolving comic masterpiece. Beneath the dazzling comic antics, Kraft has a serious purpose: to investigate the nature and interaction of memory, reality, and invention."—-Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

"Mr. Kraft's work is a weird wonder, successfully mating tales from the kind of small-town life that hardly exists anymore with a never-ending examination of what it's like to create such a world. In an age when computer technology is on the verge of unleashing the all-singing, all-dancing novel, Eric Kraft's true theme, the awesome power of the low-tech human imagination, has never seemed so timely or so wise."—-Karen Karbo, The New York Times Book Review

"This series is smart, funny, warmly inviting, and delightfully impossible to define."

—-Kate Bernheimer, The Oregonian

"The only American author since Pynchon to completely erase the line between the literary novel and the spit-out-your-coffee comedy."

—-Andrew Ervin, The Washington Post

"The literary equivalent of Fred Astaire dancing: great art that looks like fun."

—-Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

Publishers Weekly
This addition to Kraft's well-received body of work (Passionate Spectator, etc.) serves as the premier installment of the Flying trilogy and features the ever-engaging Peter Leroy. Upon hearing rumors that his Long Island hometown is being turned into a theme park based on his childhood cross-country flight, Peter returns with his levelheaded wife, Albertine, and a "fearsome conscience" to set a few things straight. Peter fears the media will uncover the truth about his heroic, history-making, 4,000-mile round-trip solo flight to New Mexico when he was 15: that the "earthbound portions" of the flight made up most of the mission. Nostalgic, homespun backstory reveals Peter's childhood, his early fascination with flight and the frenetic events leading up to the construction of the "aerocycle" (based on plans printed in The Impractical Craftsman). The "Birdboy of Babbington" attempts to right his wrong with a heartfelt, revised expedition, but trouble looms, as Albertine may or may not have been kidnapped by a group of flyboy emergency medical technicians in this installment's closing pages. Kraft's unpretentious and engrossing storytelling make for a pleasant, escapist read. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Kraft's (Passionate Spectator) latest pseudo-memoir by Peter Leroy, a quirky, intelligent, and admittedly unreliable narrator, recalls the summer he was 15, when he built an aerocycle in his garage and traveled 4000 miles from his hometown of Babbington, Long Island, to New Mexico and back. Leroy, a self-described hapless dreamer, is now a "seat-of the-pants memoirist." As he puts it, "You don't write about your life; you live your memoirs." After receiving a cryptic postcard from a childhood classmate, Peter and his wise, ever-indulgent wife, Albertine, return to Babbington to find that city planners have re-engineered the town to its full 1950s glory. Central to the myth is Leroy's legendary flight as the Birdboy of Babbington, which overlooked some technicalities that Leroy has been meaning to clear up for decades. This is an earnest, warmly nostalgic flight of fancy dotted with philosophical musings on the nature of fiction vs. reality, memory, and loss. Unfortunately, as the first of a planned trilogy, it seems slight, and the abrupt cliff-hanger disappoints. Buy where Peter Leroy's other screwball adventures are popular. Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The past is recaptured in accents ruefully funny enough to turn Marcel Proust into Jacques Tati, in the latest Chronicle of Peter Leroy. It's a dual narrative, in which middle-aged Peter (who now lives in Manhattan with his unflappable wife Albertine) is recalled to his hometown of Babbington, Long Island to set the record straight regarding his celebrated flight (as the teenaged "Birdboy of Babbington") to New Mexico, in a homemade "aerocycle" built in his family's garage. The years have elevated Peter's daring feat to the status of local legend. The truth is sadly more mundane ("My longest sustained period of flight might have covered six feet. For the rest of the outbound trip, I was on the ground, ‘taxiing' "). As Peter recalls events preceding and complicating this venture, Kraft deftly juxtaposes past and present, subjecting any possible grandiosity on Peter's part to Albertine's irreverent wit. (She isn't at her best here, but does manage to become hospitalized following a "dogboarding" accident.) The narrative sputters, as Kraft indulges his penchant for (and, to be fair, mastery of) the art of digression, treating us to meditations on the nature of memory and the affliction of "antinostalgia" (the overwhelming urge to be somewhere else), principles of aerodynamics as (almost) explained in the popular magazine "Impractical Craftsman," Peter's developing relationship with his sometimes unreadable father ("the Grand Naysayer") and the nonscience of "pataphysics," as articulated by waggish French surrealist author Alfred Jarry. This first volume in a planned trilogy) improves as it moseys along, culminating in Albertine's benevolent abduction by admiring "flyguys" (airborne EMTs) andthe imminent voyage of the unconventional aircraft (inevitably) dubbed "The Spirit of Babbington."Still, only sporadically equal to the best of the Chronicles. But if you're a Peter Leroy completist, don't even think of missing it.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.88(d)

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Meet the Author

Eric Kraft has taught school, written textbooks, and was co-captain of a clam boat, which sank. He was the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded the John Dos Passos prize for Literature. The author of nine previous novels, he and his wife live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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